Directed by: Pascal Chaumeil
Screenplay by: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner, Yohan Gromb
Starring: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis
Running Time: 105 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
To Catch a Thief meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Maybe that wasn’t the official pitch for director Pascal Chaumeil’s romantic French romp, Heartbreakers, but it could have been. That may seem an unlikely combination for cinematic success, but thankfully it does work, in large part because of the movie’s overall good comic sensibility, and the movie’s leading man, Alex (Romain Duris). There are times when the story admittedly gets silly and even predictable, but it never becomes too much of either and mostly it’s enjoyable and believable. Of course this may or may not translate into box office gold here in America, especially when subtitles are involved, but most French films, be they good dramas or comedies, appeal only to a select group here any way. Heartbreakers, although not great, or even in the league of say My Wife is an Actress, can sit comfortably among other familiar and fun French comedies, such as When the Cat’s Away (also with Duris), or more recently, Let it Rain.
In Heartbreakers, Alex is a cool and charming professional Don Juan who’s also a funny down-to-earth guy, with principles. He, along with his sister and brother-in-law provide a service to break up couples, with the stipulations being that the couples are unhappy and the relationship unhealthy. They make what they believe is an exception to these rules when Alex falls upon hard times and is in desperate need of a lot of cash soon. As such, Alex reluctantly accepts the offer from the wealthy Mr. Van Der Bercq to break up his daughter Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) and her fiancé the week before their wedding. Tensions and humor increase with the clock ticking upon this seemingly impossible assignment, along with Alex’s financial deadline to a loan shark. To make matters worse, or better, Alex’s heart gets caught up in the mix as he falls for the impenetrable Juliette who is convincing at portraying herself as completely composed, self-satisfied, possessing the perfect fiancé and relationship.
Although I’m usually a hard sell on “silly” comedies and most romantic comedies, of late, going into this with Duris leading the charge crumbled my defenses. This not only due to his talent, but his obvious astute selections of projects, such as L’Auberge Espanol, The Beat My Heart Skipped, Dans Paris. He is not only one of France’s busiest and best performers, but has proven to be one of the best actors anywhere. He’s clearly adept and comfortable in all genres and commanding a strong screen presence or trying his best not to upstage while in a smaller supporting role. Since he speaks English well, one would expect his American crossover would be coming soon, should he so chose. This would be all the better for us all- giving him more work and us more of him.