Written by Georgie Hobbs
28 Monday 28th June 2010
British romantic comedy is in the Doldrums. Hollywood, birthplace of the screwball comedy, is now bloated by A-list vanities like Valentine’s Day. Last year’s Oscar winner was about Iraq, the Sundance Grand Jury Prize was a Southern gothic whodunnit (Winter’s Bone) and Cannes opted to celebrate a Thai ghost story. So a big bienvenue to Heartbreaker, the very French, very funny rom-com soon to breathe fresh air into our dour cinema screens. A staggering 1.7 million people flocked to watch it when it opened in France last year, and, thanks to its overt Dirty Dancing homage and idyllic, quirky leading couple, it will provide blessed solace from the World Cup when it opens here on Friday.
Since boy-meets-girl is a time-old tale, Heartbreaker’s commercial appeal lies in its offbeat premise. Namely: There are too many ladies made unhappy by unfulfilling relationships; too many gorgeous girls numb to their boyfriend’s failings. Friends of these women intervene by hiring Alex (Duris), a conman who will, for a fee, travel the globe to highlight a women’s worth. Using a rehearsed script, Alex woos these women, reminding them that they deserve love and respect. The women, glowing with happiness, dump their boyfriends and live happily ever after.
Alex is a professional Heartbreaker, with one rule – never break up a truly happy couple. All is well until he goes bust and a debt collector demands the exact amount Alex has been offered to destroy the wealthy Juliette’s (Paradis) eminent marriage to British aristocrat, Jonathan (Lincoln). Alex can’t refuse and reluctantly enlists the help of his sister and her hilariously inept husband. Thanks to their meticulous research, Alex swots up on, and pretends to share, Juliette’s passions (his recreation of the Dirty Dancing finale is sure to tug the heartstrings) in a bid to steal her heart. Of course, he finds his own heart stolen in the process.
Admittedly, the whole thing looks like an advert commissioned by the Monaco Tourist Board, yet Heartbreaker is rather charming. Maybe because it’s French, the inherent rom-com cheesiness appears all the more sophisticated subtitled. Perhaps it’s the well-matched odd-couple – ‘serious actor’ Roman Duris playing the love-struck fool to the disparaging Vanessa Paradis, who shines with trademark gappy teeth and a lithe body cloaked in Chanel.

Or maybe it’s just a really strong example of how to excel in escapist silliness – a love story to reduce recession blues. Whatever, it’s joyously silly fun. 

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