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Fooling in Love

Idiot boyfriends get the boot in Heartbreaker

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There's something to be said for Jonathan, the posh Brit all set to marry cute Juliette in the French comedy Heartbreaker. He's from a good family, he has a great job, and he's a press-shy humanitarian. There's only one problem: Juliette's dad, a "flower tycoon" with mob ties, can't stand him. So he hires Alex (Romain Duris) — a master of language and improv skills who "breaks[s] up couples for a living" — to steal Juliette away from Jonathan.

In the opening scene, Alex is on another job in the middle of a desert, playing a kid-loving doctor hired to seduce an unhappy young woman whose jerk boyfriend stayed back at the hotel pool to watch a wet T-shirt contest. It's all part of an elaborate plan hatched by Alex and his two co-workers: The contest is fake, and so are the sick kids, the nurse, and Alex's tears.

Alex's game is always the same: He wins the woman's heart, tells her that his own broken heart won't allow him to ever love again, but that she must go on and find someone who truly deserves her. And just like that, women leave their loser boyfriends and Alex collects a paycheck.

It's a well-run and sex-free business ("We open their eyes, not their legs," says co-worker Marc). It's also a well-planned and systematic business that requires lots of groundwork. So when Alex and his crew have a mere ten days to break up Jonathan and Juliette before their wedding, the pressure is on. (Plus, Alex desperately needs the money, since a loan shark and his bone-busting pal are waiting behind every corner.)

But the stubborn Juliette (Vanessa Paradis, Johnny Depp's longtime girlfriend) doesn't like her father, and she likes the thick-haired, smooth-talking Alex even less. Nonetheless, Alex — who tells Juliette that he's a bodyguard hired by her father to protect her from some phantom threat — prepares for his latest gig by studying Patrick Swayze's moves from Dirty Dancing (it's Juliette's favorite movie) and setting up a carjacking (so he can rescue her).

Despite its thin premise, Heartbreaker features plenty of funny moments, particularly those involving Alex and his team, who juggle dozens of different duties, wigs, and personas. They even rig a car radio to play "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," because Juliette loves George Michael.

About halfway through the movie, you know where it's all heading (think Alex will really fall in love with Juliette?). But first-time feature director Pascal Chaumeil and his endearing cast — especially Duris, who plays Alex with a mix of charm and anything-goes comedy — make Heartbreakers a breezy and often hilarious piece of escapist fluff. It won't be long before the inevitable Hollywood remake comes along and screws it up.

Send feedback to mgallucci@clevescene.com.

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