The Break-Up

| June 2, 2006

You know what I expect from a romantic comedy? Some chemistry from the leads, some romance in the story and a few laughs, preferably unexpected ones, along the way. Is that too much to ask for? I don’t think so. Do you?
We can talk about the overused romantic comedy boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl plot all day long. Personally, I don’t hold romantic comedies, as a genre, to that plot. Last time I checked Annie Hall had chemistry, laughs and romance, but didn’t hit those plot points, in that order.
Unfortunately, that’s where we run into problems with The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston, directed by Peyton Reed (Down With Love, Bring It On). It strives to break out of the confines of the typical romantic comedy, too. It picks up the story of a normal relationship post honeymoon, so to speak, after boy gets the girl. Regrettably it leaves behind the laughs, the chemistry and the romance, as well.
The Break-Up could’ve been good, even great. It has moments of what could’ve been. Those moments are riveting, in particular at the end. Moments where I think the filmmakers strive for Annie Hall territory and almost get there. But, on the whole, The Break-Up is a deeply flawed piece of work that does too little, too late.
The bottom line of the story is this: Gary (Vince Vaughn) meets Brooke (Jennifer Anniston) at a Cubs game (That most Chicago of Chicago summer rituals). Vince Vaughn acts like Vince Vaughn, and charms Brooke. The credits roll and we see snapshots of your typical Midwestern relationship – holidays, family, fun times, etc… Then the story starts, about two years in. Gary and Brooke own a condo. Gary forgets to bring home enough lemons for a centerpiece moments before a dinner party. Everything falls apart from there. By everything, I really mean everything.
Now that’s the plot. It’s right there in the title. Unfortunately, break-up’s aren’t romantic by nature. That’s okay. Not every romantic comedy meets gets romance, chemistry and laughs in. In fact, the one’s that do are rare and hard to come by. Just ask the You’ve Got Mail team. They got all three with Sleepless in Seattle, but couldn’t do it a second time – with the same people working almost the same story. So romance, we’re not expecting a lot here, because of the nature of the story. Thankfully, it’s the one thing that comes back at the end and tries to save the day. Regrettably, despite a great dose of reality, too, the romance at the end only highlights what could’ve been with this movie, not what was.
One of the major areas where The Break-Up stumbles throughout the picture is in its characters. Gary and Brooke just aren’t sympathetic people. Gary’s the prototypical “Men are from Mars” man. Brooke is the picture perfect “Woman are from Venus” woman. Insert every stereotype you’d expect from either and mix. Then watch the arguments grow bigger and bigger.
Gary’s selfish and inconsiderate. She doesn’t communicate her needs. He works as a tour guide, drinks beer. She works in an art gallery, wants to go to the ballet sometime. His doesn’t want to do the dishes. She wants him to want to do the dishes with her. Do you see where this is headed?
These stereotypes completely undercut any attempt at chemistry between Vaughn and Anniston. Once they finally get into any real emotion at the end, some sparks fly. But it’s too late. The damage is done. It also doesn’t help that Vaughn seems to be playing out of his depth here. His Gary is a wall of unrepentant male neuroses – selfish, unable to open up emotionally, childish. When he steps into an argument, he really steps into an argument. Accusations fly and you’re left wondering when the dust settles why Jennifer Anniston’s Brooke would even bother with this guy.
Overall, Vaughn’s performance is almost hyper real. Vaughn’s usual banter schtick really misses the lightweight balance of the Wilson brothers, his usual comic foils. I give him credit for seeking reality in the story, which he had a hand in writing, as well as in his performance. Sadly that reality just seems to overburden the film too much.
That leaves us with the laughs. Arguably some laughter might have helped things out some – especially in the chemistry department. But, in The Break-Up, there are no laughs from the leads. None. Mostly they’re derived from a constellation of supporting players that include Jon Favreau (Gary’s best friend), Joey Lauren Adams (Brooke’s best friend), Jason Bateman (as their realtor and friend), Judy Davis (Brooke’s Boss), Vincent D’Onofrio (Gary’s brother), John Michael Higgins (Brooke’s brother) and Ann-Margaret (Brooke’s Mom). These supporting players display quirkiness where needed, but when they do something amusing, it’s just too far and few between.
The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston, Directed by Peyton Reed, is one of those romantic comedies that promises it’s different than every other romantic comedy you’ve ever seen; but doesn’t follow through on those promises. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stand up too well to other, typical romantic comedies either.

About the Author:

Filed in: Video and DVD

Comments are closed.