As the name implies, light-heartedness and big dollops of soppiness are built into the DNA of romantic comedies, which partly explains why they can be such big crowd pleasers compared to other genres.
Generally speaking, actors with established careers don't ring their agents and order them to lobby for parts in rom-coms. It came as no surprise to learn that neither Vanessa Paradis nor Romain Duris, two of the best-known local actors of their generation, had starred in a romantic comedy before they were cast in the French film Heartbreaker, which screens at 9.30pm this Saturday on SBS ONE. But maybe they had just never been asked to sign up to a rom-com previously.
By definition, rom-coms have two girl/boy-next-door characters that are destined to be together and a large amount of will-he/she-won't-she/he-get-the-boy/girl tension derived from the barriers put in their way, except that it can't be anything but comic tension because once the couple-to-be are introduced to the audience and each other the film's outcome is set in stone.
Heartbreaker has two bonus elements, too. Firstly, it delivers its story at a cracking pace with lots of action, and secondly, there is something disconcertingly bolshie about Juliette (Paradis), who also gives the film a lot of style – Paradis and director Pascal Chaumeil modelled her on Hollywood glamour girls of the '40s and '50s, although she looks like she has an eating disorder in comparison!
Indeed, Heartbreaker feels like a French and a Hollywood film rolled into one, perhaps because it was produced by a French company and the French arm of Universal Studios.
Above all, a rom-com relies on the attractiveness of the leads and both Paradis and Duris have appeal in spades. They hadn't met each other before working together on this film, which is surprising given how long they've both been working in film.
Paradis has been in the public gaze since she was 14 years-old when her song 'Joe Le Taxi' shot to the top of the French music charts, and she won a César Award four years later for most promising actress in her debut film, Noche Blanche.
Duris had appeared in 33 films in the 15 years leading up to Heartbreaker, helped by the fact that he's a favourite with the directors Cédric Klapisch and Tony Gatlif. He hasn't yet taken a César Award home but has been nominated for The Crazy Stranger, Peut-être, The Beat That My Heart Skipped and Heartbreaker.
Duris has described Chaumeil, on set, as prioritising the mood over the words. Rom-coms have a distinct mood and tone and Heartbreaker nails it.