Directed by Pascal Chaumeil
Screening at till 27th July 2010
The recent tide of French cinema to reach our shores has been rich in
gritty realism, whether it be the emotionally involved 35 Shots of Rum,
or the graphically violent A Prophet. To see a massively successful formulaic
rom-com spout forth from this wave is more than a little surprising. Even
the latest offering from Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet – Micmacs
– was zany enough to impede box office success. But Pascal Chaumeil's
Heartbreaker seems to have ticked all the boxes necessary to become an
internationally palatable romantic comedy - despite the subtitles.
The film follows professional 'couple breaker' Alex Lippi, played by
Romain Duris, who is hired out to seduce women falling for unsuitable
partners and help them see the flaws in their relationships. Problems
arise when he must win over the very much in love Juliette (Vanessa Paradis)
and all the while prevent himself from becoming emotionally involved.
The film's premise isn't particularly original, or even appealing, and
yet it has been winning audiences over world wide. Why is this? Firstly,
Heartbreaker is a first class 'feel-good' film. Usually, the 'feel good'
endorsement is a stamp of Hollywood mediocrity, but Heartbreaker earns
the definition literally. This is due to several factors, but must first be attributed to Duris'
performance. Duris, renown for his moody portrayals in The Beat that My
Heart Skipped and Dans Paris, dons the guise of comedic lead – stylised,
cool and outgoing – but continues to delve into the conflicted aspect
of Alex's character. Admittedly the depth of this exploration is scarce
and fleeting, but Duris manages to build a character intriguing enough
to carry the fanciful plot to its conclusion. Furthermore, Duris is a
hugely compelling screen actor, and never lets the film fall away from
Credit must also go to Chaumeil, who manges to save the film from drowning
in Hollywood clichés. It is notable that Chaumeil has previously
worked on a number of Luc Besson films, as Besson mastered the art of
fusing French and American cinema. In a similar way Chaumeil manges to
balance French style with Hollywood glamour in Heartbreaker, and although
the film suffers from limp set pieces and bouts of predictability, the
emotional charge and honesty integral to French cinema is ever present.
Heartbreaker is no masterpiece, but the commitment to its premise means
that its weaker moments are forgiveable. The film's strength lies in its
comedy and characterisation, and its sometimes beautifully composed shots
help the film slip into an 'above average' category that any romantic
comedy requires to be taken seriously. Heartbreaker is a godsend for the
French film industry, and may even be the saviour of the romantic comedy