Monday, 30 August 2010

Heartbreaker (L'arnacoeur) (2009)

Alex (Romain Duris) is in the break-up business: he’s a professional “couples-splitter” who, along with his sister and brother-in-law, is employed by rich parents to stand in the way of their daughters and undesirable beaux. The snag comes when Alex is assigned to romance Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), a wine expert who’s engaged to a Brit that her father dislikes, and finds himself falling for her for real.

Pascal Chaumeil’s enjoyable romantic comedy bounds along infectiously; it’s no great shakes but a fun entertainment: daft, glamorous, and, by, current Hollywood rom-com standards, quite classy. The director's approach certainly can’t be called subtle, but the interludes of broad, slapstick comedy are well-judged. The performances add to the charm, though the characters never become too conventionally likeable. Paradis gives an engaging, understated performance, and having brooded for Bretagne in films from The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005) to Dans Paris (2006), it’s fun to see Duris cut loose with a full-on physical comic turn here. Chaumeil exploits the actor’s silly side that surfaced now and then in Moliere (2007), and offers some amusing, parodic riffs on his previous performances, too. (He's also spectacularly coiffured and styled throughout.) A US remake of Heartbreaker is in the works, though it’s interesting to note how the  cultural references in this version are all British or American, not French; a stand-out sequence has our couple recreate the central dance scene from Dirty Dancing (1987). The Polish audience with whom I saw the film seemed to enjoy themselves, appreciating in particular a comic sequence in which Alex’s brother-in-law masquerades as … a Polish workman.

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