Alex Lippi is a man of many talents. At one moment, he is the wonder surgeon of the Sahara, bringing medicine to poor Moroccan villages, selflessly saving lives and impressing the heck out of a young tourist there with her loutish boyfriend.
Then he’s a Paris table chef of seductive charm and skill, winning the attention of a Japanese restaurant manager. He sings (not well) in a black gospel choir, charming the robes right off one of its members. He gets himself arrested and woos a lady cop in the paddy wagon on the way to the precinct.
And he does all this for money. Alex, played by Romain Duris of “Paris” and “Moliere,” is a “Heartbreaker” for hire. You’re a guy who wants to get out of an engagement, or a parent, friend or relative who disapproves of a match and wants to end it, Alex and his team are who you turn to.
“We open their eyes,” his role-playing sister, Melanie (Julie Ferrier) explains. “We are artists,” Alex adds. And “I have principles. If they’re happy, I stay away.”
Alex, Melanie and Marc, the gadget guru (Francois Damien, hilarious) spy on their subjects, do their homework, role play their way into hotel rooms, garbage bins, restaurants, etc., and develop a strategy for turning Alex into the perfect man, the one who can lure this inappropriate woman away from that heir, or that heiress away from this man who isn’t right for her.
Alex has problems with his own relationships, and with money. A loan shark is after him. That’s why he takes on the case of the rebellious daughter of a flower tycoon. The gorgeous Juliette (Vanessa Paradis of “Girl on the Bridge”) has the perfect beau. He’s rich, charming, generous, good-hearted. And “I’ve never seen two people more in love,” Melanie insists.
But Alex needs the cash. And Juliette’s testy, aloof nature intrigues him, even if he won’t admit it.
The giggles in this lightweight farce are in the “Mission: Impossible” planning and prep and scheming Alex and his team go through to get Juliette’s attention. She’s rich, so Alex poses as a bodyguard her father has hired to escort her through Monaco on the days leading up to her wedding. She’s into George Michael, so the team has to fake a radio broadcast so that Alex can feign interest in “Wake Me up Before you Go Go.” She loves “Dirty Dancing,” so he must memorize Jennifer Grey’s finest film and prep for a big, dancing payoff that you know is coming.
Duris, sort of a short, French Sacha Baron Cohen, mugs for the camera, faking the pain of his own broken heart (“I can never love again!”). He deftly deadpans his way through a staged restaurant accident, staged car-jacking and staged dolphin encounter at a Monaco theme park. Paradis lets us see Juliette’s stern facade start to melt.
Yes, it’s basically a French “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” or “Failure to Launch.” But “Heartbreaker,” in French with English subtitles, is sweet and sunny (Lots of English language pop tunes) and laugh-out-loud silly and well worth seeing before Hollywood remakes it with somebody like Matthew McConaughey in the title role.
See for Yourself
“Heartbreaker” — Opens Friday at the Enzian
Cast: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damien
Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Rating: Unrated, worthy of a PG-13 due to situations, language and violence.