”Breakin’ Up” is hard to do but harder to do well.
“The Break-Up” continues a popular trend, more commonly found in TV sit-com land of pairing an oddball average Joe (Vince Vaughn) with a too-cute-for-him sassy woman (Jennifer Aniston). (See “King of Queens,” “Everyone Loves Raymond,” “Yes, Dear” etc…). But before you get duped walking into the theater thinking it’s going to be a light romantic comedy-beware-“The Break-up” is exactly what the title implies-and that’s what makes it interesting.
Vaughn is Gary who, along with his brothers (Vincent D’Onofrio, Cole Hauser) runs a Chicago tour bus company. It’s easy to believe he’d make a hilarious guide but just about everything Vaughn does on screen proves his natural comic sensibilities. He gets a lot of his best lines at the expense of girlfriend Brooke, (Aniston) herself an upscale art gallery salesperson who wishes her live-in companion would appreciate her more, you know, like WANT to do the dishes. Dr. Laura would have a field day with how “The Break-up” exposes the fraudulent nature of expecting commitment in an unmarried relationship. Still, even married couples will feel the well-written script hits home on so many male/female issues that the living arrangement matters less than the believable tug-of-war that Gary and Brooke fight. Some critics are surprised by the famously linked Vaughn and Aniston’s lack of on-screen chemistry but again, this movie is not about what makes a relationship work but about the toxicity of selfishness and pride.
The film spends no time developing the relationship so it’s never clear exactly what Brooke sees in the video game addict man-child that is sarcastic Gary but isn’t it unfair to criticize a film for what it’s not rather than what it is? As the couple trade barbs and jealousy/apathy tactics while maintaining their cohabitation, a variety of fascinating friends and family chime in. Giving the film lots of breathing room is buddy Jon Favreau (Vaughn’s best sidekick since the last time the two hung out in “Swingers”) Judy Davis as the exotic and strangely wise gallery owner, and Brooke’s a-cappella singing brother (An as usual winsomely funny John Michael Higgins).
As for the two leads, Vaughn’s star is rising while Aniston’s is fading fast. While Aniston should be given credit for some meatier roles (“Derailed” “The Good Girl”) she’s stung with a bit of Helen Hunt-itis-she seems to portray the same character in every movie. Vaughn’s career will be interesting to watch as he takes on some more serious roles (“Into the Wild” directed by Sean Penn).
Many would compare “The Break-Up” to 1989’s “War of the Roses” but that film went for the black comedy jugular and was simply meant to sensationalize mean-spiritedness. While certainly funny throughout, “The Break-Up” takes its material seriously and wants to examine the truth of the flaws in its characters without asking us to root for either side. Relationships don’t always have happy endings and “The Break-Up” dares to tell an unromantic story that still plucks heartstrings. While rated PG-13 this film is intended for adults and has the salty language and Aniston’s bare behind to prove it.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some nudity and language.