If Heartbreaker were made in the 90’s, it would have benefited from its quirky subject matter. However such films as There’s Something About Mary and Hitch over the past decade have broken almost all ground on ‘relationship experts’, resulting in the characters in this film coming across as deja vu.
In fact Heartbreaker plays like a smudged inverted photocopy of Hitch, mixing a love expert-conman with a dash of charm, and gratuitous amounts of pretty locales. There is absolutely nothing in Heartbreaker that hasn't been done originally in other films. What we get is the same old cookie cutter rom-com that would be considered an interesting failure, if it were the least bit interesting. The film is supposed to be a light comedy, but it is choppy and thoroughly laugh-free, the characters are unlikable, and the film’s tone constantly vacillates between goofy and schmaltzy. With first time director Pascal Chaumeil behind the wheel, the movie just feels clumsy and unsure of itself.
Romain Duris plays Alex, a professional breakup artist who accepts jobs to split up couples in which the woman is unhappy without realizing it. An amalgamation of Will Smith in Hitch and Matt Dillon in Mary, Alex gathers information on his clients by spying and eventually seduces them. His latest assignment is Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), a rich PYT who is engaged to an equally wealthy guy. No points for guessing that Alex falls for Juliette. The film gets more and more unsurprising as it progresses, and the third-act detour into sappy romance is as predictable as it is annoying. The conman angle offers plenty of opportunity for cheeky hilarity, unfortunately only the ideas seem interesting, and the movie never runs with them. Majority of the film is constantly interrupted by director Chaumeil’s hackneyed staging of the comedy. He sniffs around for easy Hollywood clichés when the story needs a fresh turn.
Frustratingly, it becomes difficult to care about any of the characters on any level, and the laughs are just absent. We’re supposed to root for Alex and Juliette to wind up together, but it’s impossible because he’s such an unfunny dolt and she’s so unappealing that she’s practically nonexistent. Chaumeil doesn't seem to realize that his film utterly gives up on being a comedy in its second half. He also extracts such dreadful performances from his cast that it's hard to tell who is most appalling. Whatever his comic strengths, Duris never once pulls off his timing. Julie Ferrier and Francois Damiens, who have no business trying to be funny are handed thanklessly loony roles. The real stars of Heartbreaker are costume designer Charlotte Betaillole and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast who takes full advantage of the lovely Monaco locales.
There's no fun to be had in Heartbreaker – just various, sterile yawns. One can’t help but wish the film had a little more faith in the audience’s intelligence when trying to evoke laughs.
(First published in Mid Day)