It’s half way through the year and we’ve already had a slew of dismal romantic comedies. It’s not surprising as the Hollywood machine which spits them out with such tiresome regularity never sleeps – there’ll always be a market for cheap popcorn slush inevitably starring Jennifer Aniston or Gerard Butler
Heartbreaker is a romcom salmon swimming against the tide of mediocrity, it’s fresh, good fun and won’t make you sink further and further into your seat with each passing minute. Smouldering scruff bag Alex (Romain Duris) is the key player in the heartbreaking business. His company is employed to split up undesirable couples, usually by making the woman see the faults in her relationship and then sweeping her off her feet with his irresistible charms. He’s aided by his capable and smart sister (Julie Ferrier) and dutiful if dim-witted brother-in-law (Francois Damiens) – the backroom support team which aid him in all of his little missions.
But he might have met his match in Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), a headstrong successful business woman about to marry a seemingly perfect Englishman (the always excellent Andrew Lincoln).
It’s a wonderful screenplay – a fantastic opening montage shows Alex at his best, ministering to sick and needy African children while his female target visibly swoons. It sets the tone for the rest of the movie – decidedly silly, but never sacrificing wit or humour for over-sentimentality and with lashings of good snappy dialogue.
The performances are universally excellent – Romain Dupris as Alex is effortlessly charming; you might even find yourself falling for him a bit yourself – chaps, hold on to your girlfriends. He’s got great chemistry with Vanessa Paradis, a catty, competitive love/hate relationship that buzzes with a believable sexual tension.
He’s reliably supported by Julie Ferrier as his sister – smart and quick-witted but also with the patience to withstand her husband’s constant ineptitude. Their backroom antics provide a great madcap foil to the main plot.
Heartbreaker is chock-full of little memorable details that make up Alex’s stock in trade and make the film frequently hilarious; Alex having to turn away to deliver his special move – crying on demand, which usually seals the deal, is a fantastic recurring joke; the dirty dancing scene is both touching and humorous but not overdone.
Its ending may be predictable (this is after all a romcom in the traditional style), but the journey is certainly worth the price of a cinema ticket. Heartbreaker is a charming, smart and highly enjoyable romantic comedy and certainly one of the best of the bunch this year.