Alex Lippi (Romain Duris, of The Beat That My Heart Skipped and Russian Dolls fame) is the anti-Hitch. He doesn't stay behind the scenes to impact knowledge on seduction to guys clueless on getting the girl of their dreams. Rather he's leading the charge himself in a family business designed to break couples up. But he's not the cad he's made out to be, nor their business model immoral, because he follows a philosophy of how he reads women – those who are happy, unhappy and those who won't admit they are unhappy. His business focuses on the last group, where concerned family members and friends can engage Alex's seduction expertise to ruin the relationship between a woman and man, but drawing the line against grounds that are religiously motivated, or to break up genuinely happy couples.
And that in itself is quite the unique selling point of the film, making this a remarkably fresh injection into the romantic comedy genre. As with most field experts, there won't be a story if they stick by their own rules, and hence with growing money problems, Alex accepts a job that has to see him break off the impending marriage of a flower tycoon's daughter (Vanessa Paradis) Juliette to rich English scion Jonathan Alcott (Andrew Lincoln), where research sees him and his team gathering all kinds of facts, figures and trivia about his mark, and a race against time to fulfill his objective in 10 days. An idea crops up, and he poses as her newly assigned bodyguard who come courtesy from her dad.
Now his is quite the dream job, getting to romance countless of women if only for a brief moment, having absolutely no strings attached (and strictly no sex) and being in a position to positively influence their decisions to quit being engaged with jerks out there. I think it's noble to a certain degree even, being the heartbreaker and opening the eyes and minds of impressionable ladies, and having to be a fine actor in order to pull such a stunt off. Romain Duris shines in the role of Alex, having to employ his acting range in a variety of situations designed to challenge his skillset, given a number of staged and unexpected situations his character has to handle, including that involving his own heart. While having his usual repertoire of staged lines and techniques used to impress, new skills have to be employed if he's going to make an impression.
But the film won't be as fun as it was without the involvement of the comedic duo Julier Ferrier and Francois Damiens, who play Alex's sister Melanie and brother-in-law Marc respectively in this family business, the former being his point-person and the latter adding that technological edge in well-oiled operations on par as seen in heist movies. The trio provide excellent banter with one another while going about their mission and their believable chemistry is one of many reasons why this film is delightful to sit through. They rely on impersonation, lies and trickery, and the fun comes when things don't go exactly as planned, especially when Juliette doesn't seem to fall prey to Alex's usual bag of tricks, made complicated with the arrival of Juliette's best friend Sophie (Helena Noguerra).
I wonder how much of that in the film is applicable in real life, since there are those who think that opposites attract, yet others who deem having shared interests is key to sustain a relationship. This film presents both sides, yet curiously made it seem that lies being told are acceptable as well, so long as the guy is suave in his delivery. To enjoy this film would also mean to temporarily suspend disbelief, or to subscribe to the notion that soul mates do exist, and come into your life at the very last minute prior to getting married. After all, one can never deem it too suspicious when someone actually shares every single one of your interests, from favourite movie, singer and even breakfast food.
In some ways, Heartbreaker toes the line of girls who fall easily for bad boys who show them a good time, rather than for the boring, stable ones. Learning Juliette's missing year from college and what that would unfold just reinforces the point that girls just wanna have fun. Being a romantic comedy will also mean the usual expectation that you don't expect any treading of new ground when the finale rolls along, although I was half-rooting for that to happen. If you're tired from what Hollywood produces as romantic-comedies, then this French film will give new vigour to the genre that is starving from ideas like this one. Highly recommended, and it goes into my shortlist as one of the best this year!