At first glance, you could mistake this for a mainstream Hollywood rom-com: handsome con artist accepts money from rich parents who want him to stand in the way of their beloved daughter and her unsuitable beau. He charms her, she realises she can do better, he invents a sob story about a broken heart and swiftly departs with a wallet full of cash. This, however, is a French film, so there’s a blissful lack of Dane Cook types pedalling crude sex gags. Instead, we have the comically talented French thesp Romain Duris as the charming Alex, and Vanessa Paradis as Juliette, his latest mark – a woman who could actually break his heart. Juliette is engaged to a posh Brit, Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln, not great), but her dad objects, and assigns Alex to intervene and pose as her bodyguard.
It’s an instantly amusing set-up: Duris is terrific as the suave trickster assisted by his sister and her husband, a comical duo who set up surveillance devices to research Alex’s targets. The opening scene is hilarious: Alex poses as a heartbroken doctor delivering medicine to needy villagers, all of whom are in on the act. For Juliette, he must memorise the ‘Dirty Dancing’ routine and Wham! lyrics. More farcical laughs come courtesy of Juliette’s drunken nympho friend, who inconveniently sets her sights on Alex. Problem is, Alex and Juliette never look like a credible love match. Paradis is an enigmatic presence, her character’s true feelings never apparent. When ‘Heartbreaker’ goes for real romance, it falters. When it goes for laughs, it hits the mark. A mixed bag, then, but still an accessible comedy that outstrips its similarly conceived US counterparts.