A well-oiled machine that melds together comedy, love story, and actioner
The French title, a slang word I guess, with the same meaning, is “L’Arnacoeur.” This charming and smoothly executed if far-fetched farce/action/rom-com about a team of professional marriage-derailers-for-hire has won rave reviews along with top box office in France (Allociné critical rating 3.0 (72). As has already been written in a US review, this is exactly the kind of thing Hollywood loves to copy but never manages to do with the required Gallic lightness and elegance. Actually there’s a slight overload of added slapstick and violence this time; still, the action movies on such well-greased wheels and the actors perform with such dash, the movie never ceases to entertain.
The premise: Duris and his sister (Julie Ferrier) and her husband (François Damiens) run an outfit specializing in breaking up impending weddings by showing the bride that her fiancé isn’t as desirable a match as Duris. Duris, AKA Alex, withdraws with a touching story about how he’s too heartbroken to be the one. Usually a rich father employs the team to perform this scam. Such is the case when Vanessa Paridis is about to marry Jonathan, a wealthy young Englishman (Andrew Lincoln). The job goes against Duris’ basic rule never to break up a match when the couple is genuinely in love with each other — as these two are. Also the deadline to stop the wedding is impossibly short. But the team takes it on nonetheless because of a major debt. Gangsters are threatening to do huge damage to Duris if he doesn’t pay up very quickly.
Two gaps in the writing: it’s not entirely clear why Paridis’ father is so keen on destroying this match; and the team’s elaborate high-tech methods are impossibly clever and complicated. However none of this is meant to be taken seriously. Much of the fun is in the ingenious tricks the team uses to follow Paradis’ movements and give Duris opportunities to seduce her — an outcome which she stubbornly resists till the very last moment. And then when she gives in, of course, he breaks another of his cardinal rules and falls in love with her; but it’s all resolved in a lighthearted fashion.
A fun watch with definite non-French audience potential. I saw it in Paris in April 2010 (where the buzz was very positive) and again in a preview in NYC, when it seemed a little longer than it needed to be (there is a lot of repetition). But Duris’ deftness as a comic actor, his physicality in the dancing bits, Paridis’ charm and elegance, and François Damiens’ sympathetic personality hold up and indeed inspire awe and admiration on repeat viewings.
DIRECTOR: Pascal Chaumeil
CAST: ROMAIN DURIS, VANESSA PARADIS, JULIE FERRIER, FRANÇOIS DAMIENS
RUNNING TIME: 105 MIN