To fully appreciate the pleasures of Pascal Chaumeil’s debut feature, Heartbreaker, it helps to know—and love—Dirty Dancing. The addictive 1987 hit guides every “step” of the prospective lovebirds’ evolution in Chaumeil’s film: the discovery, the groundwork, the bonding moment, the physical connection, the eventual coming clean—elements common to romantic comedies. And like Dirty Dancing’s Johnny Castle, whose job was to charm and dance with older ladies at a summer resort, Alex (Romain Duris), the scruffy yet irresistible antihero of Heartbreaker, converts his magnetism into cash. His business, more ethical than it sounds, is the breaking up of unsuitable relationships, with the help of his industrious sister (Julie Ferrier) and her goofy husband (François Damiens).
But now it’s finally Alex’s turn for an emotional ransacking, as he finds himself drawn to his latest assignment: the rich, sporty, and adorable wine connoisseur Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), whose engagement to a too-perfect Englishman (Andrew Lincoln) may prove harder to sabotage than the rest.
Airy and lush (the film’s Monaco backdrop, the location for Juliette’s impending wedding, is gorgeously captured by master cinematographer Thierry Arbogast), Heartbreaker harks back to old-fashioned Preston Sturges–style escapism, with equal parts sophistication, screwball, and heart, that is all but extinct. Need it even be mentioned that a Hollywood remake is already in the works?