Heartbreaker (L’arnacoeur) (review)

This breezy but slight French rom-com so perfectly apes Hollywood’s output in the genre that I have no doubt that at this very moment, an English-language studio remake is being plotted… one that will remove even the small charms that make it worth a look. Romain Duris (Paris) is ridiculously engaging as Alex, who hires himself out to open the eyes of women who are unhappy in their relationships but don’t realize it. He doesn’t sleep with them, but beyond that, anything goes in the quest to make these miserable women realize that they’re missing out on the lives and the loves they deserve, as he — a perfect chameleon — molds himself into the man of their dreams (if an unattainable one). Early on, the film is as much as a delightful sendup of spy comedies — Alex works with a team and a lot of surveillance electronics to set up the ideal scenarios for each job — as it is of romantic fantasies, and it’s here where French TV director Pascal Chaumeil’s cleverness shines. As Alex gets into his latest job, however, the film starts to fall flat as everything that makes Alex Alex gets thrown away: Juliette Van Der Becq (Vanessa Paradis), you see, is about the marry an absurdly perfect man (Andrew Lincoln: Love Actually), and they seem deliriously happy together, but Alex takes the job (he’s hired by the woman’s father, who thinks he knows what’s best for his adult daughter) even though it contravenes Alex’s principles. And then, of course, Alex falls in love with Juliette himself. What was fluffy and frothy and fun turns unfortunately Hollywood-distasteful and forces characters who had been appealing to do things we don’t like them for. If only the film had trusted in its own premise, instead of succumbing to the blandness of the conventional.

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