Review: ‘The Break-Up’

It’s a film about a break-up. That’s it. No, really. No, there’s nothing more, they just break up. You DID read the TITLE of the film, right?

Gary Grobowski (Vince Vaughn) meets Brooke Meyers (Jennifer Aniston) at a baseball game and manages to charm his way into a first date. Fast forward four years to find the couple live together in a great condo and are starting to carve out a pleasant life for themselves… and starting to get on one another’s nerves. When little things start speaking for larger silent issues, Brooke and Gary engage one another in a series of games meant to one-up the other while talking to everyone about their problems except one another. Will they find a way to rekindle their romance in time for the closing credits, or are they actually better off moving on with their lives?

The trailers for The Break-Up are a bit misleading; they show all the funny angry get-even moments and the reaction of their targets, but so does every romantic comedy. Let’s set the record straight right here: this film is the exact opposite of Failure-to-Launch. The movie demonstrates a rare maturity by making a bold statement, that not every couple who gets together should be together, and sometimes people hold onto what’s familiar for the sake of security long after the romance or any meaning in a relationship is gone. Kudos to Vince Vaughn for also having a hand in crafting such a crafty script.

Back to the misleading trailers and advertising. There are bits that, out of context, sound hilarious, but in the film fall very flat as it becomes obvious that a relationship is ending and neither person is prepared to deal with it or even really understands right then what’s happening. The gray area that the film operates in is also what gives fuel to the opponents of such a concept, that a couple has to work at a relationship and the idea that “soulmates” are really two people willing to give that much of themselves to another, happily even at a personal expense. Even the clever casting of “helpful friends” like Jason Bateman, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jon Favreau fail to prevent the inevitable as they each have lives of their own and their own problems to worry about.

Anyone coming into the theater with pre-conceived notions about what grand plan will be cooked up by the couple or their friends to “save the day” will be sorely disappointed by the time the credits roll. Everyone else may be pleasantly amused by the bickering before the drama sets in, but the sad fact is that there is no one to blame and no one to hate. It’s no one’s fault to make the other feel better, so you are left with little else than to feel sad for them both and frustrated there’s no bad guy. This never was actually a romantic comedy, but it was filmed using the conventions of that genre instead of the more traditional chick-flick Indie tragedy (at least it ends on a more positive note than Closer).

For all its effort, the script is brave but the execution is bad. It’s like the film version of The Perfect Storm; showing the crew struggling with upbeat spirits (the hallmark of an action thriller) throughout the film only to wipe them out unceremoniously at the very end (cheating audiences out of any dramatic experience from meeting an inescapable fate). Okay, sure, that is the FACT of what happened, but exactly WHY would you want to WATCH it? The surest message of hope comes at the very end of The Break-Up, where we learn that two people have grown for the experience and have gone on with their lives. Ultimately, is that kind of truth entertaining, or do audiences prefer being lied to about their perfect storybook romances?

I can recommend this film only if you remember that what you are about to see is exactly what it says in the title. If you go in with any other expectation, expect a waste of your time and money.

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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