The Break-Up: *1.2
Mirror Film Critic
Movies have become so formulaic they’re like fast food restaurants. No surprises but at least you get a super-size helping of unhealthy satisfaction. We have always fled to the comfortable darkness of the theater to escape our own lives for a few hours, or to be enlightened, challenged, moved, turned on – there are a hundred reasons we go but it is up to the studios to prepare us or entice us for what we will pay to see. When they pull the old bait-and-switch it makes for very disgruntled moviegoers.
When word got out that the new Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn film The Break-Up was testing badly in the Valley, supposedly the filmmakers fixed it. Even as Aniston and Vaughn were doing their best to warn audiences not to go in expecting, say, When Harry Met Sally, the public was gearing up to be satisfied by one of their tried and true formulas: the romantic comedy.
If you want to wait to see what the film is about read no further.
The Break-Up is rebellious in almost a hostile way. Rather than giving us the reliable money shot, it gives us instead a think piece on why relationships fall apart. We spend two hours with these characters in hopes of having it all pay off with one spectacular, implausible, hideously romantic payoff. But instead we get two hours of mediocre navel-gazing and one or two colorful characters and well-written one-liners. The Break-Up is a wait-for-DVD if there ever was one.
Aniston plays Brooke, an irritating nag of a girlfriend who started dating a selfish pig and then expected him to be transformed by her love into a generous puppy dog. Vince Vaughn plays said puppy dog, a.k.a Gary, – a man who liked having a hot girlfriend until she started demanding he participate in the relationship like a grown-up. She breaks up with him because he’s a child and she can’t take it anymore. He digs his heels in and refuses to move out of the condo the two co-own. She believes if she plays her cards right she can get him to realize the errors of his ways, change, and they will live happily ever after.
He refuses to change and expects everyone else to bow to his every whim. The two of them fight viciously until they can’t take it anymore (and we can’t either by this point) so they decide it’s time to sell the condo and move on. What a relief, we’re thinking. Here is a perfect example of why it’s a bad idea to buy a condo with a girl you are attracted to from the outside in. It is as if these two people never really spent a day together but just imagined each other all day and all night. Sure, love fades but come on – this is ridiculous.
What promised to be a decent enough romantic comedy has now devolved into a rather serious drama about a dead relationship. Aniston was going through her own awful break-up at the time so perhaps that influenced it but either way, what we’re left with, if you’ll excuse my French, is a dry hump.
Woody Allen pulled off a similar stunt in Annie Hall back in the ‘70s. In that film, his character Alvy uttered the infamous line about how a relationship is like a shark – it must keep moving forward or else it dies: “What we have on our hands here is a dead shark.” Though you want Annie and Alvy to be together, you realize they have grown too far apart. Here, Brooke and Gary as are two awful people who shouldn’t ever be involved with anyone other than each other; who else could stand them? But alas, the movie overlooks this point and chooses instead to play it straight, letting the characters discover, over two agonizing hours, that they were all wrong for each other in the first place.