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.