At the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night, we learned two very important lessons: first, despite what Hollywood leads us to believe, the romantic comedy is not dead, dumb, or skewed too young to be palatable to those old enough to vote. Heartbreaker (L'Arnacoeur) stars Romain Duris as a professional breakup artist named Alex. He seduces women who "don't know they're unhappy" in their relationships --- he won't sleep with them, and he does extensive research to make sure they are in fact unhappy. (He's a man of principles, as he says.) Aided by his sister and her husband, Alex does whatever he has to do to get the ladies to fall for him, including learning Japanese and creating a fake Berber village in Morocco, bringing us to the second lesson of the evening: Alex/Romain doesn't have to work too hard to reel in the ladies. In his skinny Paul Smith suits, with an off-kilter smile and tussled hair, he wowed women onscreen as well as off, during the Q&A that followed. Plenty of men, too.
Alex is hired by a shady but wealthy businessman who wants to break up his daughter's imminent wedding to a seemingly perfect man. The tension intentionally resembles that found in a spy movie or thriller, as well as any number of Billy Wilder films in which the hero and heroine have to extensively test each other before falling in love. Aided by a great soundtrack, Heartbreaker is wonderfully silly (Dirty Dancing plays a pivotal role) and surprisingly dramatic. It's the best romantic comedy we've seen in some time.
In person, Duris, here in town to kick off BAM's series devoted just to him, appeared as charming as his character . On stage with director Pascal Chaumeil and critic Charles Taylor, Duris gamely fielded a string of bizarre man-crush questions, winning the audience with his jokes. (At one point, when the translator tried to help him form an English word he appeared to be struggling with, he admitted that he didn't know the French word either.) With time for only one more question, a young woman in the very back of the sold-out theater threw up her arm. "What's your favorite restaurant in New York?" Duris laughed. "I know this," he said. "Blue Ribbon. It's amazing." He flapped his hand back and forth at the wrist, as if to say 'hot stuff.' As everyone laughed, another woman shouted, "Will you be there tonight?"