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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Peyton Reed
scr Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender
with Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams, Judy Davis, Cole Hauser, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jason Bateman, Justin Long, Ivan Sergei, John Michael Higgins, Ann-Margret
release US 2.Jun.06, UK 21.Jul.06
06/US Universal 1h47
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl: Vaughn and Aniston
Cheerful but not very funny, this anti-romantic comedy at least has an original premise. But it fails because it neglects to create characters we care about.
Brooke and Gary (Aniston and Vaughn) have been together for a few years and bought a flat together, when a small fight opens deep wounds. Basically, Gary refuses to engage in the relationship, preferring to blob on the sofa playing videogames or watching baseball on TV. Meanwhile, Brooke works full-time, organises their social life and keeps the home running. Enough is enough, and it's all-out war as their friends are forced take sides. The trouble is, they still care for each other.
To his credit, director Reed avoids the cheap rom-com cliches. He blends the cute, shiny surfaces with some edgy and awkward interaction from beginning to end. The fateful night when their two families gather for dinner is both hilarious and painful to watch. And the spiteful arguments and confrontations that follow are laced with honest cruelty and petty irritations, played perfectly by Vaughn and Aniston.
But perhaps they play the characters too well. Gary is such a waste of space that we can't see why Brooke bothers; surely the ability to chatter entertainingly isn't remotely enough. As a result, we don't actually want them to get back together--better to descend into War of the Roses vitriol. But the filmmakers aren't brave enough to do that. They keep things corny and, well, dull. It's vicious but not remotely black.
Fortunately, the large supporting cast add texture and wit. In Gary's camp, Favreau is reprehensibly macho, but their banter is at least entertaining. While we want more of D'Onofrio and Hauser as Gary's intriguing brothers. For Brooke, we have Adams as the faithful, personality-free best friend, plus the divine comical stylings of Davis as Brooke's jagged boss, with Long camping it up as her amusing assistant. There are several more one-scene wonders who keep us chuckling, but without an engaging central story it just feels empty. So it's a refreshing surprise when we escape the expected sappy ending.
John Paddock, Iowa: "Ripping the sentimental bones from romantic comedy, The Break Up leaves love to rot. But with Vaughn and Aniston enlivening the stark material, the film’s hard-heart does not beat in vain. He’s fast and funny, she’s grounded and glamorous. Pit the two against each other though, and the relationship turns cutthroat. The writers don’t necessarily break new ground when it comes to the jarring differences between men and women, but they make good use of it. Augmented by the two leads, a quirky supporting cast, some neat cinematography, a fitting score, and the Windy-City as a refreshing backdrop, The Break Up is a quality movie about love and war. Though it vacillates between comedy and drama, and in turn, drags from time to time, the film packs heart behind its convictions." (2.Jul.06)
Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "The movie was enjoyable, although in places it was so well written/acted it was almost too true-to-life relatable for comfort. I loved the beginning credit pictures! (I wish I could look half as hot as Jennifer Aniston in the dresses she wore - sheesh!) Well written, believable, awkward, funny, painful, plenty of angst, and the ending wasn't what I hoped - but then again, maybe it was?" (21.Aug.06)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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