In ‘Heartbreaker,’ Actors’ beauty, setting the only saving graces for French rom-com

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, September 23, 2010 11:55pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

When a movie isn’t your cup of tea, there are worse things than sitting in your theater seat and watching two very pretty people on screen.

That’s the saving grace of “Heartbreaker,” a romantic comedy that felt very dumb to me. I think the movie has a labored plot and basically works a cheat on the audience.

But jeez, the two leads are easy on the eyes. They are Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis, who sometimes look as though they’d be happier in a fashion layout than the actual storyline of “Heartbreaker” — not that there’s much difference, at times.

Duris is the lanky hero of “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”and “Dans Paris,” and a Euro-heartthrob in the making for the last few years.

Vanessa Paradis is a gap-toothed gamine who became popular in France as a pop singer and an actress, but may be most famous to U.S. audiences as the partner of Johnny Depp, with whom she shares similar cheekbones and a couple of kids.

Duris plays Alex, a man who runs a very specialized sort of scam. For a fee, he and his two partners will break up a mismatched couple; he makes himself irresistibly attractive to the female half, thus causing her to realizes the emptiness of her relationship. Alex always manages to make a clean getaway.

You wouldn’t think there’d be that much work in this line, but apparently the world is full of meddling relatives who think their sisters or best friends are marrying oafs. Who knew?

The opening sequence gives an amusing digest of Alex’s tricks: poetry, tears, an uncanny ability to get inside the mind of whatever woman is in front of him (the latter point has been thoroughly researched ahead of time).

Of course, we will then witness a scenario in which Alex meets a lady resistant to his charms: Juliette, played by Ms. Paradis. It unfolds around Monte Carlo, conjuring up images of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly trying to outguess each other’s motives in “To Catch a Thief.”

Sort of, anyway. “Heartbreaker” is even more frivolous than that movie. But maybe you’ll enjoy the scenes where Alex tries to worm his way into Juliette’s heart by sharing her love for “Dirty Dancing” and the ’80s hits of George Michael’s old group, Wham!

Thanks to the charms of the two actors, this material comes to intermittent life, except when “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is playing on the soundtrack, which is where I draw the line.

The movie itself has about as much appeal as a Wham! song, so take that for what it’s worth — especially you George Michael fans.

“Heartbreaker” 2 stars

A professional Casanova (whose business involves breaking up bad relationships) finds himself challenged by an apparently happy and charming woman — a scenario played out on in Monte Carlo, which adds to the generally fluffy quality. The set-up is really a cheat, but the star appeal of Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis might ease the strain. In French, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably R for subject matter

Showing: Harvard Exit

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