Be forewarned: The Break-Up is not a cute happy romantic comedy. You may think that's what you're in for, but you are going to be quite wrong. Sure, it's funny as hell, thanks to a strong lead performance from Vince Vaughn and well cast minor roles. But underneath the comedy lies pain. true pain. Real pain. The pain that a guy who was recently dumped can not only relate to, but project his own sensibilities and insecurities onto. I mean this in the nicest and most complimentary ways possible, but this movie is painful to sit through.
It's kind of surprising that this film is opening as a big summer flick. It's one of the most honest films I've seen in awhile, which is not par for the course this time of year.
The Break-Up tells the story of Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) who meet cute in the beginning, but are quickly taken to the end of their relationship, living in a condo and at the end of their rope. Well, the end of Brooke's rope. Gary doesn't sense any problem in his actions whatsoever. After a pretty damn hilarious family dinner, Brooke and Gary have it out, and they're broken up. (Although it's not exactly clear that they are, but that could just be because I'm male and not too quick to pick up on when the girl has broken up with the guy. This goes for life, as well).
The marketing of the film would make you believe that Brooke and Gary are going to spend the rest of the movie fighting over their shared equity in the condo, but that's misleading. It's a plot point, but not a major one. The film instead focuses on how these characters deal with the situation, from one-upping the other through jealousy to using the shared friends collective to be on "their side". This is where the pain comes in.
Credit to the writers Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, director Peyton Reed, and Aniston and Vaughn (who also claims story and producing credits) for playing the emotions true to life. If there were ridiculous situations and shenanigans afoot, the film would be stupid, and more likely predictable. However, The Break-Up continued to surprise me until the end. It's the most genuine film of this nature I've seen since The 40 Year Old Virgin.
I'll continue to praise Vaughn to high heaven for as long as I shall live. The man's good. I thought he was going to be miscast as the romantic lead, but he's not the romantic lead. He WAS in the portion of the film we never got to see. It's almost as if the Vince Vaughn persona we've come to know of late crashed a romantic comedy and turned it tragic. And he plays it very well. When he shows emotion, I actually believed him. And Aniston, whom I have always been indifferent too, holds her ground against Vaughn and then some. She has to go through a lot in this flick, and she proves herself worthy. She inspires pathos, anger, joy, depression; everything one associates with a break-up situation. Again, Aniston does it very well. And I didn't once think about how she was dumped by the dude from Seven Years In Tibet.
The scenes between Vaughn and Aniston are quite good, and as I mention, the most painful to watch due to how much they bring to the game. But the Break-Up is smart enough to counter balance these emotions with a supporting cast that's the most gifted comedic blend since Arrested Development was cancelled. Jon Favreau takes a nice turn and plays the role Vaughn usually does, the comic relief. He almost steals every scene they're in together. Hilarious. There's also Jason Bateman (he of aforementioned Arrested Development) as the realtor. There's John Michal Higgins as Aniston's a cappella singing brother, who gives one of the funniest scenes in the movie at that early dinner scene. Judy Davis is hilarious as Aniston's boss, the owner of an art gallery. Even the guy who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story shows up, as the husband of Chasing Amy's Joey Lauren Adams. In fact there are too many brilliantly funny actors in the movie to name, some whom you'd never think could be outright hilarious. And it works. Everyone is on their game, and ready to play. (To keep the metaphor continuing).
Attention must be paid to the Eric Edwards beautiful look for the flick, capturing the glory of Chicago. I also must praise the genius of Jon Brion, composing simple and heartbreaking melodies, akin to his work on Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,.
Like I say, the genius of the movie lies in the fact that you're watching a couple deteriorate, and it does not feel fake or forced at all. It's good to see actors stretching out and doing worthwhile work as opposed to just going through motions. It's a confident film that pulls no punches, if you can believe it. It's a top notch production all around, striking a good balance of humor and depression. (Although, I might be blowing the depression thing out of proportion, but what do you want? She broke my heart and I'm miserable now).