The Break-Up (First Look Pictures, PG-13)

The romantic comedy is one of the most reviled film genres of all time by this and a great deal of other reviewers, due mostly to its predictability-having had no original ideas in the last 50-odd years-and general lack of room for any kind of expansion. But now, strangely enough, we have a mainstream movie, The Break-Up, that is getting tons of advance press (most of which, admittedly is directed at the real-life relationship between the film's two stars, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston) that is the anti-romantic comedy; instead of the meet-cute and growing love for each other filled with forced sentimentality and touchy moments, we have a fast-forwarding through the "good part"-the two meet in the film's opening credits. The rest of the film deals with the unpleasantness of breaking up with someone, and, even more shockingly, portrays it in a relatively realistic fashion.

It isn't so much of a shock to me that The Break-Up is a surprisingly good movie; I like both Vaughn and Aniston, and the film's director, Peyton Reed, is the man responsible for two of the last decade's best cinematic guilty pleasures, Down With Love and Bring It On (I have taken much ridicule for owning the latter on DVD). Aside from his work on feature films that testosterone-riddled men wouldn't be caught dead attending, Reed has done some memorable work on television, including directing episodes of Mr. Show and Upright Citizens Brigade. What is more of a shock is that this film was made by a big studio and is getting a big media blitz; while it still is deserving of inclusion in the genre of romantic comedy, it oftentimes feels a lot more like a drama, and audiences going expecting to laugh will often be uncomfortable with how truthful the movie can be about the mess of a breakup, especially someone that you live with.

And while I was ultimately happy with The Break-Up (it will likely land a spot on my DVD shelf when it comes out in a few months, with just Breakfast at Tiffany's between it and Bring It On), it is just good enough to make the viewer wish that it were better. The concept of a very un-romantic comedy being marketed as a romantic comedy is very subversive, and will hopefully breathe some new life into the long tired genre. Still, the fact remains that The Break-Up suffers from some relatively serious (if forgiveable) bad decisions from its filmmakers, and I wish that they had hit the nail on the head a little more directly. For one, Vaughn's Gary often feels way too much like a stereotype than an actual three-dimensional character. And if he seems bad at first, wait until Justin Long's gay art gallery worker Christopher is introduced. A lot of the comedy is very contrived and not as intelligent as the rest of the script (I'm sure it would be hard to make something that can be considered a comedy from this material, though).

But the worst is the fact that the film is rated PG-13, when it really feels like it needed to have been an R. (Odd, that-last year Vaughn reinvigorated the R-rated comedy with Wedding Crashers, so it seems like the producers would want to cash in on that, especially since the script seems to require a harder rating.) Oftentimes the characters will use dumb-sounding euphemisms for obscenities when it feels like they'd be so far off the handle that they can't help but cuss at each other. There are also a couple of nude scenes from various characters, which range from artful (Aniston's much-hyped nude scene will leave those who want to see her naked vastly disappointed, but the scene works well) to stupid (Vaughn and his buddies play strip poker, but nobody seems to actually strip at all, and not because they're winning).

Despite all of the missed opportunities, there are many more things that are commendable, such as the greatly underused Joey Lauren Adams as Brooke's (Aniston) go-to advicemonger, and an almost unrecognizable Jon Favreau as Gary's. Vincent D'Onofrio, Jason Bateman, and Ivan Sergei all turn up in small parts, too, so it's obvious that the casting director knew what he was doing. As did most people in the movie-something tells me that the film's targeted audience will be sorely disappointed, as it can be fairly depressing at times-but the film is a big step forward in the art of the mainstream romantic comedy.

 

Official Site: http://www.thebreakupmovie.net/

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