Foreign fare destined to be remade by Hollywood don’t come more ready-to-go than Heartbreaker, a French comedy about a business that breaks up couples. Yes, that sounds a lot like the gimmicky central occupations in Failure to Launch and My Best Friend’s Girl, doesn’t it? All this needs is a speedy translation and the next thing you know we have our next Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson picture.
Far more energetic than usual, Romain Duris heads the three-person company, first seen playing dashing tour guide to a vacationing lass as her loutish boyfriend ogles hotties at the hotel pool. Duris and company have a 100 percent success rate, which of course instills considerable doubt into their latest venture: busting up the impending marriage of a wealthy businessman’s daughter (Vanessa Paradis, hardly the ideal rom-com lead) and a boring British millionaire (Andrew Lincoln, boring). The film’s joke (its only joke) is that the action plays and is directed exactly like an Ocean’s [Number] entry, with the full extent of cutting-edge Mission: Impossible trickery used to do no more than bust up future marrieds. Pretending to be her bodyguard, Duris, along with conspirators, orchestrates the seduction with technology: Planted cameras and microphones give them constant surveillance and radio stations are sprung into existence so as to play Wham! at opportune moments. And lucky for you, Paradis’ favorite film is Dirty Dancing, meaning dance-offs and heady debates on the sexual animalism of Jennifer Grey.
To its credit, most of Heartbreakers plays as a somewhat savage parody of rom-coms—until it doesn’t. The manipulation—overly familiar songs, desperately goofy comic relief bits and sudden twinkly music cues at sad moments—is used sarcastically, as fake as every bit of Duris’ macking on Paradis. Or is it? Will the heartbreaker become the heartbreakee? Egads!
While the ruse is still on, Heartbreaker is sprightly and slick enough to distract. And hell, at least its sense of humor isn’t of the unfunnily oversubtle breed of most Gallic comedies. But eventually the sarcasm drops, the sap begins in earnest and the vision of this exact film starring Dane Cook becomes terrifyingly vivid.
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