Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Jennifer Aniston……….Brooke Meyers
Ann-Margret ……….Wendy Meyers
Cole Hauser……….Lupus Grobowski
Jon Favreau………Johnny O
John Michael Higgins……….Richard Meyers
Joey Lauren Adams……….Maddie
Vincent D’Onofrio……….Dennis Grobowski
Ending any sort of relationship leaves a lot of areas that need to be resolved before there’s a sense of closure to the proceedings. Whether it’s moving to a new residence, leaving a job or ending a relationship the one thing about closing relationships is that there’s always the matter of personal effects. That’s the crux of The Break-Up; who gets the stuff.
In the case of Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) it’s not a personal effect per se they’re clashing over. They share a great condo in Chicago and neither wants to move out. Convinced the other will break first and exit the condo, the couple’s break-up draws out the worst in the two as their best friends Johnny (Jon Favreau) and Maddie (Joey Lauren Adams) provide alternating advice as they engage in a War of the Roses type of melee to try and lure the other one into submission. It’s a moderately entertaining film that just doesn’t know which side of the line between comedy and drama to follow.
And that’s the crux of the film as it straddles an invisible line between being an all out comedy and a tense drama too often. There is definitely a story to be told about a couple trying to break up while not really wanting to; there’s also a really funny romantic comedy that wants to come out as well. It’s just that the awkward rushed moments of both genres are pushed together; we’re left with a film that becomes painfully mediocre for most of its running time because there’s no clear sense of what the movie is trying to be. It’s not well-written nor is it well directed to boot; there’s an awkward and clumsy pace to match a poorly told story. It’s shot well as the city of Chicago is used effectively and city landmarks are used effectively; there’s some great landscape cinematography used intermittently that’s quite effective in establishing the film’s credentials as being a film in Chicago and not just any other large city.
Getting the setting right is a good thing, of course, but the film struggles early on because the relationship between Brooke and Gary isn’t established enough early on in the film. They meet, fall in love and then break up in less than the span of 10 minutes. It’s not nearly enough time to make us care to see them get back together or stay apart; after the usual romantic comedy shenanigans to get them together there’s nothing more than a series of photographs in an opening montage to establish the fact that they are dating. While the relationship is believable because Aniston and Vaughn are both terrific in their roles the breakup itself doesn’t have any significance to begin with because there’s nothing to establish it as something to care about.
And that’s a shame, really, because there is a top notch cast involved with this film. This isn’t a top level cast but there’s lots of talent to go around. Vaughn and Aniston have plenty of chemistry on screen; it’s believable on screen that they would be a couple, as they would become one off of it in part because of making this film, and it’s this chemistry that keeps the film moving and still somewhat enjoyable. Vaughn is unbelievably funny in some slow moments, going off on tangents and saying some rather amusing things while Aniston has more of a dramatic role than a comedic one. While she’s good in it as well, carrying a lot of the acting prowess for the duo, they’re symbolic of the problems of the film. Going for more comedy and less drama, or vice versa, would help both characters find the right fight for this film. The cast around them is top notch as well; Adams and Favreau are both solid in limited screen time and supporting actors Cole Hauser, Vincent D’Onofrio and Justin Long provide some solid chuckles as well.
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