For the past half-decade, Romain Duris has been French cinema's go-to brooder. Diversifying his saturnine handsomeness, Duris gives his artfully disheveled brunet 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, and he will invariably mix business with pleasure. But 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. To fill the energy vacuum created by Paradis' lazy-heiress hauteur, Duris must exhaust himself through countless physical challenges. This 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.
Wake us up when Paradis is over.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Sept. 24. Not rated. 89 minutes.