Friday, 12 April 2013

Scene 53: Review of the Heartbreaker/ L'arnacouer

I am in an odd mood this week. For some reason I really want to watch rom-coms and wedding films - not that a good old rom-com once in a while isn't good. Fortunately I have a copy of Heartbreaker, which I bought weeks ago and have been meaning to watch. 

Heartbreaker (2010) is a French rom-com starring Romain Duris - who also starred in the films Moliere (2007) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2007) -  as Alex Lippi, a man who's job is to break-up relationships. 

He explains in the titles that in couples there are three types of women: happy, unknowingly unhappy and unhappy but admitting it. He deals with the last kind, seducing them slightly, then letting them down gently by saying its too late for him and ultimately making the woman in question finally admit to herself she's unhappy and can do better. 

Alex does these jobs with his sister Melanie and her husband Marc, who deal with setting up romantic situations, surveillance, research and so forth. 

Then one day Alex is hired by a rich florist and possibly mob boss to break-up the seemingly perfect relationship between his daughter Juliette - played by singer Vanessa Paradis, who voiced Lucille in the rather good French CGI animation A Monster in Paris (2011) - and her fiance before their wedding. 

Alex takes the job, needing the money because the break-up business is not only almost broke but because he owes a lot of money. So he turns up in Monaco, where Juilette is spending a few days alone before the wedding, pretending to be a bodyguard hired for her by her father - and then in the great tradition of rom-com proceeds to fall in love with her. 

I really liked the cinematography of this film. There were some great shots and scenes that seemed more artistically composed or in the style of an action film, than perhaps you'd normally have in the average sort of rom-com/ chick flick, particularly with its wide shots that incorporate alot of sky, sea and sand at the beginning and in the later scenes in Monaco, especially in the lovers dash to meet.

The Monaco setting was also a wonderful choice. The place looks so romantic near the harbour in an exotic,  sun and sea way, but there's also the epic cityscape that lines the coast too.

The leads are both very likable. Romain Duris is definitely worthy of a rom-com lead in looks, but his character also comes across as genuinely charming and honest - despite the fact he's lying most of the time. 

Vanessa Paradis' character is also very good. Her character is rather quiet, but she manages to comes across as independent and capable, yet humanly vulnerable - without having to be ditzy.

Like Romain Duris, she is also a sexy, attractive character, without being obviously so.

I also think wardrobe did a brilliant job making both actors look glamourous and romantic in an understated way - and I know this isn't a very film critic thing to say, but I wouldn't mind owning any one of the dresses she wore in this film! 

I must mention that there is a lot Dirty Dancing thing going on in the film. It is Juliette's favourite film and the two leads do a whole homage in a restaurant by dancing the final dance from the movie. Do not worry however if like me you haven't seen Dirty Dancing, as the aforementioned dance scene is great anyway. 

Obviously the film is not perfect, and there are several things I did not enjoy. First of all, the initial idea seemed alright when I first read the blurb, but after watching the film I found it more silly than I had expected. 

The break-up operations both felt rather ludicrous. Especially the lengths the team went to creating these romantic situations, and how easily they seem to be able to do it - how do three normal people manage to access street cameras for starters, did Marc hack them? What about Melanie dressing up as all these hotel staff? The whole thing is like a big spy operation, but as far as we know this is just a little business set-up by them. 

Then Melanie mentions they are not breaking-even, even though such a service would obviously cost a lot, and Alex manages to demand £50,000 for the five days he works with Juliette. 

That was another problem I had with the plot, Alex's apparent debt to the mob. Perhaps I missed a few subtitles, but I never understood exactly how he'd ended up borrowing so much money - he lives with his sister after all. Though she does complain he buys expensive suits, so maybe that's what he's been spending it all on. 

The addition of the debt also felt unnecessary. It may have had an ironic purpose later, but I think if I had been the script editor I would have cut it.  It just makes the film feel less real, and even sillier. The film would've have worked just as well if it had merely been another job for Alex, except this time he actually falls in love. Even just the risk to the business would have been enough. 

Anyway, I've realised how much I've written and despite having more opinions about Heartbreaker and rom-coms in general, I think I'll stop here and save those for another day. 

So in summary, a visually enjoyable film with an excellent leading pair of characters and actors that is fun to watch, however I would have personally preferred a slightly more grounded, realistic plot. 


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