For the past half-decade, Romain Duris has been French cinema's go-to brooder. Diversifying his saturnine handsomeness, Duris gives his artfully disheveled mop and permanent three-day stubble a workout in the hopped-up Heartbreaker, which puts the "antic" in romantic comedy.
The film's premise has a certain twisted chivalrous charm. Alex (Duris), aided by his sister and her husband, is paid to break up couples, but only those in which the woman is miserable. A tycoon offers Alex a tall stack of euros to bend his business principles and end the upcoming nuptials of his daughter, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), who seems genuinely in love and happy with her British investment-banker fiancé. Alex assumes the role of Juliette's chauffeur and bodyguard, driving her to Monaco, where she is supposed to tie the knot in 10 days.
Neither Côte d'Azur beauty nor that of Duris and Paradis can compensate for Heartbreaker's fatal imbalance: Duris' nonstop animation versus Paradis' catatonia. Paradis appears somnambulant if not outright bored, a robotic object of desire. Duris' perpetual motion often feels like wheel-spinning desperation, hyperactivity that can't mask the absence of a genuine emotional center. There's trouble in Paradis — and in a script that prizes frenzy over any actual feeling.