Saturday 11 May 2019

Movie Review: The Break-Up (2006)

A romantic comedy about the ignoble end of couplehood, The Break-Up succeeds in disrupting the genre's predictability.

In Chicago, Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) have a seemingly perfect relationship and are living in the condominium they co-own. He runs a tour business with his brothers (Cole Hauser and Vincent D'Onofrio), while she works at the gallery owned by celebrated artist Marilyn Dean (Judy Davis).

But after one long day Brooke snaps at Gary's lack of sensitivity and appreciation for everything she does for him. Feeling he takes her for granted, she breaks-up their relationship, but secretly wishes he will change his ways once he understands what he's losing. Forced to co-exist in their apartment until it sells, they both deploy nasty antics to irritate each other and evoke jealousy, reducing the likelihood of the relationship being salvaged.

Perhaps one way to revitalize the romantic comedy is to skip past most of the meet cute and courtship stages, and The Break-Up gets all that out of the way in the first scene. Gary spots Brooke at a baseball game, charms her with his rough goofiness, and the next major incident presented by director Peyton Reed is the dinner party ramp-up to a pretty spectacular relationship implosion.

And for once the big argument has nothing to do with an ex-lover, jealousy or one of those contrived misunderstandings that litter the genre. Here Brooke has her fill of Gary's selfishness, evident in that first scene at Wrigley Field, and she erupts in a volcano of rage against his me machine.

The rest of the film takes a sharp scalpel to the relationship remains. With plenty of humour and some touches of boorishness, Reed explores her and his points of view, with a focus on character-consistent blind spots. Brooke judges herself the perfect partner and is certain Gary will come around and understand how much poorer life will be without her. It's a valid but unproven assumption: Gary's life centres on fulfilling his needs and wants with no emotional room for much else, and understanding her desire for appreciation does not register.

They trade wind-up tactics during the reluctant real estate wind-down phase. He brings in a pool table; she retaliates with her insufferable brother's acapella choir. He hosts a stripper party. She prances naked, reminding him of what he's missing. Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn invest enough venom with hints of regret to make the tit-for-tat war of attrition work. And the film is enriched by a superior supporting cast featuring real estate Jason Bateman, bartender Jon Favreau and Brooke's work colleague Justin addition to Hauser, D'Onofrio and Davis.

The Break-Up shatters most rom-com cliches, and not unsurprisingly finds welcome new edges to sift through.

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