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Heartbreaker

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Heartbreaker

MPI Home Video

Foreign movies don’t just speak different languages; they tackle genre differently. And Pascal Chaumeil’s delightful French romp Heartbreaker, full of fabulous-looking stars and stunning landscapes, runs circles around American romantic comedies with its sexuality, bits of danger, and smart writing not found in 2010’s crop of stinkers like Leap Year and The Bounty Hunter.

It opens with a scam. A young couple on holiday in the desert wants to do different activities: His ideal afternoon involves a lounge by the pool, drinks, and a wet T-shirt contest later in the day. Hers, a bus ride out to the dunes. When they miss the bus, he ends up where he wanted and she in a jeep with a “doctor” needing to drop off “vaccines” to “orphans” before hitting the dunes. The orphans are paid, the needles fake, and the nurse a fraud. When the “doctor” and his charge see doves from the dunes, he kisses her and says words to inspire her life passions and get rid of her stupid boyfriend.

The “doctor” is played by Alex (Romain Duris), a professional relationship breaker-upper. Upset siblings, frustrated fathers, and best friends at their wit’s ends hire the lady-charmer, his sister Mélanie (Julie Ferrier), and her tech-head husband Marc (François Damiens) to research, break into, and destroy relationships deemed unfit. How does the team do it? Have you seen Duris? Seduction, baby, and the fact that he has the time of his life running the game is just chocolate in the croissant.

And now Alex and his crew have 10 days to stop the wedding of wine pro Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to her seemingly perfect fiance Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln)—at the request of Juliette’s father. The team is ready to give up the fight once they find no crack in the pretty, pretty exterior, but Alex owes money to someone with a huge thug in their employ. So, the three follow Juliette to Morocco as she finalizes touches on her wedding, which is to take place there in just days.

Pretending to be a bodyguard hired by her father, Alex spends as much time with the beautiful Juliette as possible, but their time together feels more sincere than the relationships in many rom-coms, where the protagonists might meet by tripping over each other and landing in a pool. Her party-hard girlfriend Sophie (Héléna Noguerra) arrives to provide some laughs as many sidekicks do, but plenty of stale genre routines are turned on their ass. Juliette is no rich diva bitch; she’s sophisticated but kind, preoccupied and emotional. And Alex doesn’t have crap to prove as a working-class man—his joie de vivre has nothing to do with his lack of inheritance. They never talk down to or hate each other, and their characters seem less a teenage girl’s fantasy of what brings two people together and more like real life: When you work together, it’s easy to get familiar. (Wendy Ward)

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