© Universum/Squareone/Walt Disney Studios

Der Auftragslover (Heartbreaker, L’Arnacoeur)
France/Monaco 2010

Opening 6 Jan 2011

Directed by: Pascal Chaumeil
Writing credits: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner
Principal actors: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, François Damiens, Andrew Lincoln

Actor Romain Duris shines in this French comedy about a team of professionals who break up couples all for the good of “unhappy” women. The film opens with Alex (Duris) driving off into the Moroccan desert with one of these unhappy women. At the end of the day, they have visited a fake orphanage where Alex pretends to be a doctor surrounded by grateful kids. By comparison, the woman’s lover is toast and she ends the relationship. Assignment completed.

This opening scene is just a small introduction into the work of the break-up team which consists of Alex, his sister Melanie (Julie Ferrier) and her nice but simple husband Marc (Francois Damiens). They “help” three categories of women: those who are happy, those who are knowingly unhappy, and those who are unhappy without admitting it.

The next assignment must be accomplished quickly. Millionaire van der Becq (Jacques Frantz) will pay big bucks to prevent the marriage of his daughter Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to Jonathan Alcott (Andrew Lincoln), whom he considers to be unworthy of his daughter. The wedding is in ten days. This is a challenge, because first the team must construct a profile of the couple. (Jonathan is unable to pilot his own jet; Juliette eats blue cheese for breakfast, likes the film Dirty Dancing, and mysteriously disappeared for one year.) In order to observe Juliette, Alex pretends to be a bodyguard hired by her father. She outwits him; he struggles; they gradually get to know each other and the inevitable happens.

Not your usual pretty boy, Romain Duris is good at gestures, pantomime, and making faces, i.e., body language. Vanessa Paradis, with the space between her two front teeth, is also not the perfect woman. Perhaps these small flaws are what make them believable and endearing. Julie Ferrier and Francois Damiens are excellent supporting actors. It’s quite believable that the breakup team can exist by interfering with commitments. I loved the Dirty Dancing parodies, first with Alex and Marc practicing in a hotel, and later Alex dancing with Juliette. The soundtrack adds to the film with evergreen pop songs, such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” Normally, I have difficulty recommending French films (my own personal cultural block), but director Pascal Chaumeil has made one French film which I can actually understand and appreciate.

Critic Osanna Vaughn adds: My thought about Heartbreaker is that Hollywood is bound to make their own version as the idea is fun, but I didn't think the chemistry worked particularly well between the two main characters! (Becky Tan)

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