Harvey Critic - 17/08


"There are three kinds of women," says Alex Lippi (Romain Duris), a man who'd easily have found a place on Bennett Cerf's long-departed TV show "What's My Line?" "There are women who are happy; there are women who are unhappy; and there are women who are unhappy but don't know it." Alex would go primarily after that last group, in effect acting as a would-be psychoanalyst who would step in and play Don Juan to get the unhappy women to fall in love with him and thereby dump the men who are making them miserable. This is the high concept that fuels Pascal Chaumeil's "Heartbreaker," a jet-paced French romantic comedy, the kind that Americans and British are incapable of making (think of bores like Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, for example).

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HEARTBREAKER (L'arnacoeur) - IFC Films

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter

By Harvey Karten

Grade: A-
Directed By: Pascal Chaumeil
Written By: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner
Cast: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, François Damiens
Screened at: Cinema 1, NYC, 8/16/10
Opens: September 10, 2010

"Heartbreaker," which is doubtless going to be ruined by a Hollywood version in the near future, must be caught before that because it is one of the fastest, funniest, feel-goodish, romantic comedies that have come our way in ages.

Laurent Zeitoun and Jeremy Doner's script certainly helps, providing one gag after another; Thierry Argobast's breathtaking photography in Monaco doesn't hurt either, but top prize goes to Romain Duris, ("De battre mon coeur s'est arête," "Molière"), as a charismatic lover, heavily in debt, who collects large sums from family members intent on breaking up their young un's romances.

Alex works together with his sister, Mélanie (Julie Ferrier) and her husband, Marc (François Damiens), the latter couple utilized well by director Chaumeil for more broadly comic effects. Marc operates the technical end, listening in on the victims' conversation as though he were Henry Caul in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation." Mélanie shows up in various guises, in one case taking the roles of hotel chambermaid, bartender, and reservations agent. After breaking up a couple in Morocco and even becoming a singer in an all-Black female gospel choir to wrest a member from her lover, he is prepared to tackle his biggest job, one that would pay 50,000 euros which he desperately needs to pay his debt under the threat of physical destruction from a seven-foot-tall Serb thug. To get the job, he must break a rule, which is never to undercut a romance when the two people are obviously in love.

It's no great secret where the story is going: of course Alex is going to suffer a heartbreak of his own even when his usual techniques-pretending to cry with the kind of emotion that women love, acting as a doctor caring for hundreds of poor kids in North Africa, reciting Brazilian poems in perfect Portuguese-are finding success. Hired by the father of prospective bride Juliette Van Der Becq (Vanessa Paradis), scheduled to marry her rich, British boyfriend Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln) in ten days, Alex faces a setup that might bring him down in utter failure.

Some of the side roles go overboard with slapstick, particularly of Mélanie's best friend Sophie (Heléna Noguerra), a coarse nymphomaniac, and brother-in-law Marc, who serves not only to photograph and listen in on the lovers' conversations but to act as faux repairman of hotel air conditioners. Nothing, though, serves to distract us from the concentrated efforts Alex must take to win the bride over.

Vanessa Paradis is terrific as a gap-toothed beauty who is deeply in love with her fiancé but may have reservations about whether a tightass Brit would make her happy, while Romain Duris is incredibly winning as the heartbroken heartbreaker. When the couple perform a rendition of Frances Houseman and Johnny Castle's footwork from Emile Ardolino's 1987 "Dirty Dancing," the moments are unadulterated magic.

HEARTBREAKER (L'arnacoeur)
Unrated. 104 minutes. © 2010 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online

AZR Addition: HEARTBREAKER (L'arnacoeur) is the latest addition to Karten's A-List on Arizona Reporter.

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