Heartbreaker (IFC Films, NR)

I can smell the American remake of this fine French film coming from a mile away. Here we have an original romantic comedy premise that manages to be fresh, funny and dreamy. I implore American filmmakers: just leave it alone!

 
Alex (Romain Duris) is no stranger to what makes women tick. As a professional lothario, he specializes in freeing unhappy women from their stagnant relationships via cautiously researched methods of seduction. Alex has sung in gospel choirs, prepared authentic Chinese cuisine and faked humanitarian efforts in the Moroccan desert just to lure women toward more fulfilling lives. And, it always works.
However, when Alex and his team are hired to separate Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) from her perfect-beyond-imagining fiancé, he gets the challenge of his professional life and begins to realize what true heartbreak is all about.
I can smell the American remake of this fine French film coming from a mile away. Here we have an original romantic comedy premise that manages to be fresh, funny and dreamy. I implore American filmmakers: just leave it alone! Don’t turn Alex into Patrick Dempsey and Juliette into Jennifer Aniston. Just. Leave. It. Alone.
One of the things I loved about Heartbreaker is that Alex works with a small team to help him seduce his targets. Aside from the comic relief provided by his sister Mélanie (Julie Ferrier) and brother-in-law Marc (François Damiens), this is exactly the kind of detail that American films eschew for trite stereotypes.
The Patrick Dempsey version would have Alex as a lone wolf, capable of seducing any woman with only a toss of his manly mane and happy to leave his marks without displaying any real emotion. Here, Alex may be part actor and part con man, but he puts a lot of hard work and honest thought into his work. He makes sure his targets are unhappy in their current relationships and capable of taking his (later) gentle rejection and moving on to something better. The audience feels that he actually cares about his subjects.
We also benefit from the relationship between Alex and Juliette feeling right. Juliette’s growing attraction to Alex is based on his carefully crafted lies, but we get the sense that every time he masters something she’s sure to love, he begins to genuinely love that thing himself. It might just be that Alex wants to make her happy, but if that isn’t a huge part of loving someone, I don’t know what is.
A lot of credit goes to Duris and Paradis for making Alex and Juliette feel like real people in a slightly odd situation, learning to trust and fall in love. Duris gives Alex a clear-eyed assuredness that makes his feelings for Juliette a welcome surprise. Paradis’ Juliette has just the right hint of underlying sadness and dissatisfaction that lets us see she may be settling when Alex shows up.│Adrienne Jones

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