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Reckoning

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HEARTBREAKER

SYNOPSIS:
Alex (Romain Duris) is professional heartbreaker who can break up an unhappy relationship and save loved ones from a conflicted life ahead. Together with his sister Melanie (Julie Ferrer) and brother-in-law Marc (Francois Damiens), they are partners in the business, with one golden rule: Alex only agrees to get involved with women who are unhappy girlfriends. Juliette's father (Jacques Frantz) who hates his future son-in-law Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln) hires Alex just days before the marriage he wants to prevent. In need of the money to pay off a nasty debt, Alex agrees to abandon his code of ethics to seduce the elegant young woman, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), who is not unhappy at all. This is his biggest challenge yet - and things do not go according to plan.

Review by Louise Keller:
Love, lies and seduction are the mainstays of this funny and utterly charming romantic comedy that champions broken relationships but not broken hearts. On an original and audacious twist of the romantic comedy genre, writer director Pascal Chaumeil's uplifting fantasy takes flight with the irresistible pairing of Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis, whose relationship travels a bumpy, if glamorous road in the spectacularly beautiful environs of Monaco. Nothing is fair in love, they say, but neither is it predictable, as we are sucked in by a delicious scenario of deception and transported by a hilarious and imaginative series of events.

The story begins in Morocco, when we see first hand how the carefully researched and executed heartbreaker family business works; Romain Duris' irresistible Alex Lippi will go to any lengths in the course of duty, to break up relationships. But there is a moral standpoint: there's no sleeping with the clients, nor can Alex break their hearts. He morphs into the role of doctor, gospel singer, window cleaner, chef, beggar or body guard, as is the case for his latest commission. His mission (which he must accept for financial reasons) is to get Paradis' exquisite flower heiress Juliette Van Der Becq to cancel her upcoming nuptials to rich, handsome Jonathan Alcott (Andrew Lincoln).

One of the film's most entertaining aspects is Alex's versatile back-up team, comprising his sister Mélanie (Julie Ferrier is marvellous) and her wild-card husband Marc (François Damiens is very funny), who set up surveillance, infiltrate the hotel where Juliette is staying and play out the most ridiculous scenarios in different guises. I won't spoil the surprise; just sit back and be prepared to be undone.

Things get even crazier when Juliette's outrageous friend Sophie (Helena Noguerra is a real scene stealer), who is' itching for a shag' appears on the scene and the situation escalates into a comedy of errors of farcical proportions. What does George Michael, Roquefort for breakfast, a Chopin recital and the dance moves for Juliette's favourite movie Dirty Dancing have to do with the Alex's mission? Just anticipate and enjoy. If you enjoyed Audrey Tautou in Priceless or Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, you will love Heartbreaker; the film's zaniness of is perfectly countered by its charismatic cast. Breaking hearts has never been so much fun.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There is much license given by audiences to romantic comedies; we are prepared to give up our usual expectations of characters so as to participate in the bitter sweet joys of true love being held at bay until the final moment - and then consummated with a kiss. Our hero and his girl must go through an obstacle course to get there and we must believe that the story may not turn out as we hope. But we watch eagerly for the moment of its climax.

The premise of Heartbreaker plays with this notion as it positions the seductive and handsome Alex (Romain Duris) in front of several young women whose affections he has to earn, thus having them realise that in fact they don't want to stay with their current man. He does it with a set routine of fakeries. Most of them are shown in quick succession for the sake of cinematic brevity, which kinda takes the edge off them. Still, once we get past the establishing scenes into the story, we get to see just how professional and manipulative Alex and his little team is.

His sister Melanie (Julie Ferrer) and her husband Marc (Francois Damiens) do all the heavy lifting, from playing roles as hotel staff to setting up surveillance systems to spy on their newest and most expensive target, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis). What purpose this serves in the plot is unclear but it gives debuting director Pascal Chaumeil the opportunity to flirt with bad taste.

That aside, the film is stretched out with some unnecessary baggage and extraneous scenes while it gathers the energy to send our central boy and girl on a trajectory towards the resolution. The trouble is we don't quite believe that there is a burning passion of love here, enough to override the imminent marriage of Juliette to her rich English fiancé (Andrew Lincoln). Juliette's seemingly pragmatic father is prepared to spend a very large sum of money in fees to Alex (who has big debts and needs the gig) to stop the wedding - on the sole grounds that Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln) is a bore. This doesn't ring true, removing one of the key elements that should prop up the plot.

Vanessa Paradis is more like the bore, giving a flat and monotone performance, while Duris is off key in a role that doesn't suit him. Why would a girl dump rich, handsome, decent Jonathan for a boyish crumple who doesn't have either a comb or a toothbrush?

There are some glorious shots of the Monaco area, a few amusing scenes with Alex's team working the romance sting, but at its core, the film fails to convince us that these two people belong in each other's arms. We should feel elation and wear a big sloppy smile at the end - no such luck this time.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

HEARTBREAKER (M)
(France/Monaco, 2010)

L'arnacoeur

CAST: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrer, Francois Damiens, Helena Noquerra, Andrew Lincoln, Jacques Frantz,

PRODUCER: Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou

DIRECTOR: Pascal Chaumeil

SCRIPT: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner, Yohan Gromb

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast

EDITOR: Dorial Rigal-Ansous

MUSIC: Klaus Badelt

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Herve Gallet

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2010







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