Didn’t the French know how to make the most original romantic comedies before the Americans packaged them up as the “rom-com”, that formulaic and cute little product designed for light consumption, with gorgeous looking people just managing to end up in each others arms before one of them marries someone else? Heartbreaker feels very like a French version of the Hollywood approach – “la rom-com” perhaps – and sits rather uncomfortably in its own glossy skin – the French quirkiness scrubbed clean, the internationalised plot a little too contrived, and the stars unsure of how to play this slick game of boy meets/looses/gets girl.
Actor Roman Duris plays the boy – he’s the scruffily handsome Alex who makes a living by breaking up couples who shouldn’t be together. It’s a tough job seducing women 9 to 5 but Alex is good at it, and his undercover business – which he operates with his sister Melanie (Julie Ferrier) and her husband Marc (Francois Damiens) – is thriving. But let’s not be too hard on Alex: he has rules – he never breaks up couples that are happy, and he never falls for the women he helps. Then comes a call from a wealthy businessman who gives Alex ten days to stop his independent daughter Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) from marrying a multi-millionaire philanthropist who is perfect in every way. This one is going to be a real challenge and Alex, posing as Juliette’s bodyguard, is going to have to work really hard – breaking all his rules.
The locations (Monte Carlo, Morocco) are stunning and the clothes look good, but there’s no real heat generated between Duris and Paradis who seems out of place in the genre. With Alex so busy manipulating and pretending to be in love it’s never clear just when he crosses the boundary, and Juliette spends most of the film disinterested in everything. A parody of the Dirty Dancing scene between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey – meant to be the awakening of the “dormant volcano” of Juliette’s feelings – is lifeless, and for much of the second half it’s the violins and piano of the score that provide the emotional cues. The comedy comes from the antics of the lumbering Marc who – along with Helen Noguerra as a lusty nympho friend of Juliette – injects much needed energy to a piece of holiday entertainment that is all soufflé.