Friday, July 14, 2006

The Break-Up

THE BREAK-UP (Peyton Reed, 2006)

In THE BREAK-UP Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston sever their relationship but continue living under the same roof. Neither Vaughn’s Gary nor Aniston’s Brooke are willing to move out of the Chicago condo they own together, so they stake out their turf and do battle.

Director Peyton Reed’s last film, DOWN WITH LOVE, was a snappy battle of the sexes that laughed at the foibles of men and women resisting their attraction to one another. While consistently funny, THE BREAK-UP deals in bitterness and revenge, sometimes in ways that cut closer to the bone than most fluffy romantic comedies. Reed is working in Mike Nichols and WAR OF THE ROSES territory rather than boy and girl making nice scenarios. The raw emotion isn’t always in sync with the comedy, but it gives a more well-rounded perspective on this relationship than is presented in most films of this type.

THE BREAK-UP’S key is finding blame in both people yet blinding them to their own faults. Brooke expects Gary to read her mind and tries to manipulate him. Gary is self-centered and inconsiderate. Their inability to communicate openly and listen feeds the film’s comedy and pain. Vaughn’s in prime form as a professional smart aleck, but his snarky charm does unbalance audience sympathies somewhat. The THE BREAK-UP’S humor stings, but something fascinating emerges from the rubble of this broken relationship.

Among its many nicknames, Chicago is known as the Second City. As tour guide Gary explains near the film's end, the name refers to the stronger metropolis that emerged from the necessary rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Likewise, the devastation of Gary and Brooke's romance lays the groundwork for them to construct better love affairs. Whether that will be with one another or other people is uncertain up to THE BREAK-UP'S final scene, which is a refreshing divergence from the genre's usual predictability.

Grade: B

1 comment:

  1. This film aired at midnight in the UK and after watching my feelings were very mixed. Thank you for your review. It shows that a professional can cut through to the essence.
    If the film were a poor product after the superb resources put into it, we would just give up on it. It disturbs us and therefore there is a reason for our mixed feelings. Yes, one can say they are not compatible as seen elsewhere in rottentomatoes. But ultimately things are not so clearcut in life.
    I am reminded of my own experience of listening to our UK radio series ‘The Archers’ many years ago, and thinking ‘ people don’t argue that much in real life!’ . And then shortly after hearing myself and my husband …(we’re still together! only a gentle bicker but still).
    I particularly value your insight about the ‘second city’ and fire clearing the way for…well new things.
    On a more contemporary note, another disturbing but valuable film, ‘The Black Swan’, has also got a second less obvious interpretation about the ending. Have you come across it? It is that she could not possibly have danced even with a relatively slight injury and that she could well be having another psychotic episode imagining dying. Caused by the stress of the performance of course. Art offers interpretation – that’s how it should be. Thanks again.