Perhaps it’s the fault of the other romance films I’ve been watching of late but Heartbreaker could not have been a more enjoyable watch for me.
Having put myself through the turgid He’s Just Not That Into You (avoid, just, avoid) and had to endure the poor excuse for chemistry that is on offer in Twilight Eclipse, it was a genuine pleasure to see the relationship of Alex and Juliette unfold in Heartbreaker.
The plot itself is fairly inconsequential; if anything it is probably best not to try and think too much about the setup for the story (an expensive team of three that destroys bad relationships for its clients using high tech gadgetry and elaborate costumes? Not the sort of operation that would succeed in the US or UK I imagine…thank god it’s a French film!). Instead just sit back, relax and enjoy the glorious scenery, impressive performances and generic twists and turns in a romantic comedy that refuses to neglect either facet of its genre moniker.
In many respects it would be easy to criticise Heartbreaker for dropping its conceit so early on. The most fun aspects of the film are those in which Alex (played superbly by Romain Duris who manages to be all at once attractive, sympathetic, conniving, disgusting, charming and sleazy) and his husband and wife partners-in-crime worm their way into their targets social sphere and chip away at their conscience until the targets themselves choose to end the horrible relationships they find themselves in (for in this film the moral is that only through temptation and experience are we able to see that we have become trapped). In a way it is a shame that these sequences become fewer and farer in-between as the relationship between Alex and Juliette progresses, for these are the moments with the most laughs.
However, unlike in a film like Wedding Crashers (which works as a fine basis of comparison for Heartbreaker) the joy in this film comes from the fact that the romance that takes over the proceedings does not feel rushed or tacked on. In both films the setup is just a means of putting two characters together, and so as a result it is dropped once a relationship has been established.
In Wedding Crashers we are disappointed not to see any more weddings being crashed, because Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s chemistry is much more entertaining than the scenes shared between Wilson and Rachel McAdams. However in Heartbreaker it is less jarring to have the heartbreaking be neglected as the relationship between this films two soon-to-be-lovebirds is much more pleasing to watch. Alex and Juliette’s connection is believable and genuine- once all the pretence and trickery has been removed- and part of this may be because the film takes its time in allowing the characters to grow.
Likewise, elements that would often feel cheesy and overdone in another film work well in Heartbreaker because it acts as a knowing wink to other successful romance films of the past. Juliette’s love of Dirty Dancing means that she already has an appreciation for love and lust, and as Alex’s career is dependent on him successfully implementing the clichés of modern love stories, we are automatically put into a world into which these truisms are norm. As such, a dance sequence in a closed restaurant, or a final sequence of two separated lovers running back into one another’s arms in front of a picturesque backdrop, are amusing to a knowing audience and, dare I say, a little bit moving at the same time.
A potentially redundant plot device of Alex being pursued by a debt collector of sorts may slow things down a touch, but it isn’t enough to detract from the shenanigans going on elsewhere.
Heartbreaker does not aim to change the landscape of the romantic comedy; instead it works with what it has to create something light and enjoyable. The cinematic equivalent of standing under the sun, Heartbreaker will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside; just make sure you don’t stare at it for too long.