Review: The Break-Up C+

A Film Review By Stefan Vlahov

I’m as ‘split’ as the two main characters in this movie are, on my opinion of this movie. It is at times compelling in the way it creates an unoriginal idea and turns it into something exciting with a new feel. That, coupled with it”s quick, unconventional humor makes this film a lot of fun to watch. On the other hand there are the cliched plot points, the disappointing ending, and the ridiculous actions that, put together, make it a frustrating film to sit through. Also, there are big stretches of this film that lack anything funny, and that’s not even at the end of the movie when the serious parts of the film are most prominent.

The movie is also confused about what it wants to tell its audience. Director Peyton Reed, whose last film Down With Love experienced similar confusion about what its main characters’ fates would be at the end, but at least its dance-number ending was more satisfied than the tacked-on, awkward, and boring ending that this film has. That actually maybe the screenplay’s fault, as screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender who are working off an idea Vince Vaughn made-up. I can just see the malicious smile on his face when he made-up the scene where she is trying to seduce him by walking around naked after a nice waxing job. I can also picture him trying to argue how essential this part of the film is. Oh, Vince, you’re so hopeless.

….but funny. I think he also used the fact that this was his idea as a shot to improvise. The stuff he says here, in the way he says it, was doubtfully part of the shooting script for this film. Still, that’s a positive. It’s rare that acting so methodically has helped out a comedian, but it does happen here. Vaughn wants this film to feel more real, and he is not only portraying an everyman, but he wants to embody an everyman in a way that not even Steve Carrel accomplished in his The 40-Year-Old Virgin, although I doubt a 40-year-old who hasn’t had sex yet is an everyman. No offense, but come on! If you’re 40 and you haven’t had sex yet, you….there is something wrong with you ok!

Anyways, back to this movie, Vince Vaugh’s character Gary is definitely not a virgin, in fact he is a ladies’ man and that is emphasized by the very first scene in the film when he effortlessly is able to get a hot girl like Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) at a Cubs game, who is actually at the game with another man. Just picture how charming one has to be to do that. I know I can’t. Well, it’s not that Gary is charming, he’s just annoying enough that she agrees to go out with him so he can leave her a lone. That’s another thing I can’t do. Fast forward to a few months later – Gary and Brooke are now living together, but there is a problem – they’re complete opposites. Gary is a lazy, inconsiderate, joker whose favorite past-time is to watch baseball, play video games, and play pool with his buddies. Brooke, on the other hand, is a hard-working, sporty, and is acts as a housewife most of the time, which is exactly how Gary likes it. Eventually, Brooke gets sick of it and the couple has a big fight, and neither has the guts to apologize to the other. There is another pickle they are stuck in – they live together and neither person wants the apartment to be sold, yet neither wants to move out of it either. So no they have to live together and they are broken up which sounds like a nightmare only on paper, just picture how bad it will be on acted out on film.

It’s not bad at all it seems like. This is the first mistake by director Peyton Reed – he just doesn’t make this situation bad enough. Yes, there are moments that can be classified as that, like the one when Brooke returns to the apartment to find t transformed into a strip club by Gary, but that’s about the only scene that stuck out as actually being bad enough. It seems like the whole situation is played out tongue-in-cheek, with Brooke doing different and cliched things to get Gary and herself back together, and Gary being extra annoying and intrusive. Still, I’d much rather be in that situation than say the one I’m in now, and that shows it’s ineffectiveness.

Another problem is that Brooke is shown as not having any negatives about her character. The closest thing I could spot to a negative quality of her character is the fact that she seemed a little needy in the beginning. What bugs me though is how she is a freaking angel compared to Gary. She’s not only beautiful, but is the one who wants them to get back together and is the one who remains honest and faithful. I don’t want to sound sexist, but that is no usually the case! If Aniston was playing a bitch this film would have been much better.

The cast does a good job, and there are the usual positives and negatives. A big plus is Jon Favreau as Gary’s funny side-kick and friend. Favreau’s wit is great and his character’s attitude towards the whole thing is great. He also comes off as the right-man in his relationship with Gary, which while it is a cliche and plot device that may help Gary change his ways, is integrated nicely. Aniston is also very good, and when she has her emotional scenes, her performance is honest enough to influence the tear-ducts of some more emotional audience members. The biggest waste of talent here is Vincent D’Onorfio (the crazy guy from The Cell, and The Salton Sea. He was also Justin’s father in Thumbsucker) who isn’t given one good line or one moment to shine as Gary’s responsible brother. It’s a throw-away role.

Technically the movie is good, because it uses my town’s beautiful scenic touches as the back-drop for the unfolding story. No other city looks as good on film as Chicago (although Paris gives it a run for its money) and it’s used almost to full effect here, giving us a little, and making us want to see more. The cinematography captures this city accurately and beautifully. Every other technical aspect is not really worth mentioning.

Overall, I’m split on this film. Many will likely love it until the last minute (its sucky ending), and many will nit-pick it to death. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, but it should have been a lot better than it actually is. On the scale of 2006 romantic comedies it puts it above titles like Just My Luck and She’s the Man, but below Lonesome Jim and Kinky Boots. So it’s about as good as Failure to Launch.

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