tue 16/04/2024

Heartbreaker | reviews, news & interviews



Soulless French romcom hits the rocks on way to inevitable Hollywood remake

They're having the time of their life: Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis get personal

Oh, how we like to moan when the inevitably grubby world of Hollywood gets its mitts on one or another European "classic". The Birdcage, we're told, wasn't as good as La Cage aux Folles (actually, I preferred it), and the 2001 Tom Cruise vehicle, Vanilla Sky, isn't a patch on its 1997 Spanish forebear, Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes): I'm with the nay-sayers on that.

Now comes the French popular success, Heartbreaker, starring Vanessa Paradis as an ice queen who melts in the hands of a bodyguard who is not in fact what he seems, and word has it that Universal Pictures and Working Title have bought the rights to an English-language remake. In which case, I, for one, can't wait, since you'd be hard-pressed to make a movie more mechanical, shallow and soulless than the one on view already.

Casting agents must be tossing names this way and that as to who should follow in the not especially exalted shoes of Paradis and Romain Duris, the latter playing the sort of ever-grinning bit of scruff for whom (in the cinema, at least) every posh woman lies in wait. I'd nominate Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, though the latter would have to grow more chest hair, if only because their current venture, Killers, comes from a comparable school of contrivance. And Heigl is considerably more personable than Paradis, who resembles a cooler, younger Michelle Pfeiffer but without the American star's ready sense of wit.

Protean to a fault, Duris can masquerade as a window washer, sushi chef, gospel singer, or whatever it takes

Like Killers, which begins in Nice before decamping to American suburbia, Heartbreaker knows the value of gorgeous people set against gorgeous locales - in this case, Monaco, where director Pascal Chaumeil can play out a pro forma script whereby our eventual lovers have to tiptoe around one another for a hefty share of the film before falling into the clinch in an ending that owes not a little to The Graduate.

Duris's Alex, it seems, is a professional heartbreaker: a nimble ex-boxer and man of action who makes a living rupturing romances, for a price. ("With preparation, no woman resists me," he all but purrs.) Protean to a fault, he can masquerade as a window washer, sushi chef, gospel singer, or whatever it takes to see to it that one or another love affair lands in the dust. The only proviso? Alex himself, of course, never gets involved.

Cue his latest assignment, which gives Alex and two colleagues five days to put paid to the imminent nuptials between the heiress Juliette (Paradis) and her intended, an Oxford-educated beau called Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln) whose toothsome mother - glimpsed briefly - would be enough, I'd have thought, to put off any prospective bride for life. For Alex, the task means swotting up on Juliette's personal passions, whether that means slabs of Roquefort in the morning - yummy! - or mastering Patrick Swayze's moves from Dirty Dancing, so that this movie can crib shamelessly from that one. Zut alors!

Our Gallic groover had also best move fast, since debts have left Alex in thrall to a hulking mobster who would eat him for breakfast (I'd prefer the Roquefort), if this weren't where that crucial pugilistic past kicks in. You know all along that no scenario is too preposterous that Alex won't wiggle clear just in time, even if the shaggy-haired Duris communicates more smarm than charm. (Physically, he suggests Stephen Mangan in last year's stage revival of The Norman Conquests, sans a shred of empathy.) Before long, Alex and Juliette are rocking out to George Michael in the car and playing out an adjacent balcony scene that was better done in Private Lives. That leaves Alex's sister and brother-in-law - his fellow "heartbreakers" - to indulge a series of ever less credible stunts, the one about the inept electrician perhaps striking closest to home among the DIY brigade.

On the one hand, you can see why this film has been a hit: it's glossy and eye-catching and, being French, puts sex on the menu within about 30 seconds. But taken more seriously, Heartbreaker is hard to fathom. I clocked, for instance, at least three separate sequences that end with one female character or another being punched or slapped or beaten, all in the service of the odd chuckle or two. In between the film's dead patches, and there are plenty, here's something worth pondering: is it possible that a movie ostensibly as besotted with women as is its hirsute hero doesn't actually like them very much?

Watch the Heartbreaker trailer

You can see why this film has been a hit: it's glossy and eye-catching and, being French, puts sex on the menu within about 30 seconds

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Interesting but flawed review Matt. Heartbreaker is a terrifically fun film which shouldn't be taken too seriously. Yes there are a few farcical, cartoonish moments where a disgstingly annoying woman gets knocked out but it's hardly "The Killer Inside Me" is it? Any brit remake is likely to kill off the fizz (unless Adrian Lester is cast in the lead role), substituting the warmth of Nice for the gloom of Scarborough! No thanks, I'll stick to an infinitely more enjoyable original.

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