Friday, October 1, 2010


Initially published here

I suspect the vast majority of American movie-goers equate foreign language films with a certain level of quality. Maybe ‘art’ isn’t the word that crosses their minds, but the assumption is that in other countries movies are taken more seriously and the people who make them have concerns that go beyond entertainment and diversion. This is understandable when you consider the preposterously narrow access to foreign language films afforded the U.S. film audience. We just don’t get to see the … um … let’s say, the dozens of highly contrived and formulaic romantic comedies the average Parisian is subjected to every year, for example.

Which bring us to 
Heartbreaker, a French rom-com as stultifying as anything churned out by modern Hollywood. The plot revolves around Alex (Romian Duris), a professional destroyer of romantic bonds. He and his team are hired to break up bad relationships where the woman just can’t see for herself what a mistake she is making. The film goes to great lengths to explain that Alex doesn’t split up happy couples (he wouldn’t be very likable if he did that, right?). No, he only takes on assignments when his ‘team’ is confident that it is for the best of the woman involved. But, of course, they are desperate for cash and Alex is desperate to prove old daddy wrong (he says Alex always chickens out when things get tough) so they take an assignment where it’s not quite clear what’s wrong with the soon-to-be-married couple. The fact that the movie never really makes it clear what is wrong the groom in question, other than the fact that he is not as desperately charming as Alex, is only one of its innumerable problems.

Then there’s the film’s reliance on lame pop culture references as a sort of shorthand for why two people should be together. Alex finds out that Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) is a George Michael fan and a 
Dirty Dancing buff and uses this to win her heart. Are we really to believe that people only need to share tastes for trashy '80s icons to fall in love? And when it’s all thrown aside in the end (please don’t tell me I’m spoiling this for anyone) you never feel that there was anything much else to bring these two people together. Duris is pleasant enough (if a little vacant), but Paradis is a complete bore and, sadly, cadaverous in her wedding gown.

Very quickly I found myself watching the film with only one thought on my mind -- how long before it is remade with Bradley Cooper and Blake Lively as the leads. Throw in Joan Cusack and maybe Zach Galifianakis as the wacky secondary characters and you're set. Just make the potential groom just a little more of a dick (so no one gets upset when they split) and you’ve got an easy $20M opening weekend.

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