One of the many great things about having older teenage children is that … they can babysit! So even though we were, as usual, pretty tired and couldn’t think of any movies to go and see, we went off to the cinema anyway and left the sixteen year-old in charge, with the promise of much-needed cash when we got back.
I think it’s because of Eclipse, and maybe Shrek 4 and Toy Story 3, but film distributors are not keen on releasing great movies at the moment. I imagine they’re saving them (assuming they exist) until the vampires, werewolves, ogres and toy spacemen have done their bit, soaked up all the movie-going audiences and moved on, like locusts. Which leaves the latest Woody Allen – so terrible it’s apparently even more terrible than the last two really bad ones; Sex and the City 2 – so terrible that only my US editor has urged me to go and see it, which I want to do, but couldn’t subject my husband to in a million years; a couple of UK movies that even UK critics seem to think are hopelessly miscast and dire; an action-horror-flick (no); and the Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl spy thing, which nobody, suspiciously, is talking about, despite its hot two leads, who do, now I come to think of it, have a bit of a talent for choosing stinkers. Oh, and a much-raved-about French romcom, with Johnny Depp’s wife and subtitles. To which my husband said thank you, but no, until he eventually agreed that it might be less awful than everything else out there.
It’s called The Heartbreaker and reader, it is brilliant. It is the first romcom I’ve seen in years that had me actually believing in that crucial scene where the mismatched guy and girl have to suddenly get each other, and in such a way that you’ll know they’ll continue to get each other for life. In this case, they were in a rain-drenched Ferrari at the time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the first one I’ve seen in years where the preposterous ‘he has to get her to fall in love with him in 5 days’ scenario made sense, and kinda worked.
It’s got Vanessa Paradis in head-to-toe designer and red lipstick. Nothing wrong with that either. An opening scene that’s both funny and sinister, and leaves you wanting more. A supporting couple (his sister and her husband) who are sweet and consistently funny. And a cast-full of characters whom the writers actually liked, which shows.
Very occasionally, I fantasise about being a Hollywood guru and sitting in my house overlooking the beach in Malibu, explaining to a bunch of expectant screenwriters about how to write a proper romcom. It’s a nice fantasy. It includes my Art Deco collection, my Picassos and Matisses and my Corbusier furniture. But I digress. What I’m explaining to them is that you need to love your characters. They can be as flawed as you like, but if you don’t respect them, the audience will resent spending 90 minutes in their company.
Compare When Harry Met Sally with You, Me and Dupree, for example. No don’t, because that means you have to sit through You, Me and Dupree. Why would you? The characters in The Heartbreaker are lovable. The hero does some truly terrible things, but when he breaks his own heart, you believe him.
We sat through that movie and kept looking at each other with ‘Oh my God, did you just see that bit? That was really good’ expressions. And it had a great soundtrack and enough lush shots of Monte Carlo to put the Monaco tourist board out of business for a decade, I reckon.
Some day, they’ll remake it with Jennifer Aniston, or Katherine Heigl, poor girls, and it will be ghastly. But if you get the chance to see it as it is, then go. It’ll revive your faith in romcoms, and after everything that’s been said about SATC2 recently, that’s got to be a good thing.