I have mentioned time and again in this blog that formulas exist for a reason: when used well, they work. For a romantic comedy, take a basic story, add to it attractive lead actors, keep the dialogues fresh and the humour in steady supply and little can go wrong. A perfect example of that is the new French film, The Heartbreaker (L'Arnacoeur). For English speaking people, don’t be put off by the subtitles. This is a great date movie which will keep you laughing throughout and leave you smiling for a long time after you have left the cinema hall.
The plot is simple: Alex (Romain Duris) has a unique job. He breaks up couples for a living. With a team that includes his sister and her husband, he is a professional at seducing women and convincing them to break up with their boyfriends and husbands. They have one rule though: they only break up unhappy couples. Facing financial difficulties, they decide to break that rule for a lucrative job requiring him to break up a seemingly happy couple, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) and Englishman Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln) a few days before their wedding. Of course, things complicate when he falls for the girl and risks getting his own heart broken.
The Heartbreaker has a story that will remind you of popular romantic comedies ranging from old classics like It Happened One Night to Dirty Dancing (which it references heavily), There’s Something About Mary and many others. However, that goes in favour of the film rather than against it. It works despite no originality as such because of several reasons: first, it has two disarmingly charming leads in the form of Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis. Duris is handsome, charismatic and has a great comic timing. Paradis is extremely graceful and yet, feisty and fun. She looks beautiful with her gowns, gap toothed smile and harsh but elegant features. Together, they work beautifully as a couple and their romance is developed carefully and allowed to simmer long enough for audiences to care.
The other reason for its working is its wicked sense of humour courtesy the sister (Julie Ferrier) and her husband (Francois Damiens). There are moments in the film that are pure gold and will leave you in splits. The script uses its 105 minutes well and keeps the proceedings light, peppy and fun. There isn’t a single dull, clunky moment in the film. The photography is spectacular and the sunny Monaco setting adds to the sheen of the film. The soundtrack (mostly English) is remarkably good ranging from Dusty Springfield to George Michael.
All in all, The Heartbreaker is as good as formulaic gets. It is old wine in new bottle, have no doubt. But this is fine French wine with a bold flavour that goes well with a date, and without. Treat yourself to this one.