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Monday, July 16, 2007

The Break Up: A Film Review

Ok, I should be embarrassed that I even saw this movie, but I am a man with a girlfriend as well as a huge fan of movies in general so I rarely turn down the chance to see a film, even if it is an obvious “chick flick.” Having said that, I actually really enjoyed it, lame ending and all.

The story centers around the complete meltdown of Gary Grabowski (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke Meyers’ (Jennifer Aniston) relationship, and those looking for more than that need not apply. Director Peyton Reed (Bring It On) wastes no time diving into the nastiness, with only a slim meet cute between the lead characters and a photo montage to set up the relationship. In fact, this relatively scant prologue is one of Reed’s greatest coups, as he proves a deft ability to convey the depth of Gary and Brooke’s relationship with little more than a few realistically snapped photographs.

After the opening credits The Break Up keeps the realism train rolling with one of the most uncomfortably realistic fights ever filmed. What begins as a tensely polite argument over lemons explodes into a full-fledged-break-up-inducing fight, leaving the viewer feeling as though they were actually in the room. It is awkward, eerily familiar, and altogether successful in revealing the layers of tension that clearly have been building up between these two characters since long before the movie began.

In the aftermath of the argument, in which Brooke calls it quits, the two decide to try to cohabitate while they sort out the selling of their Chicago condo, with Gary setting up shop in the living room and Brooke taking the bedroom. What follows is nearly an hour of two people emotionally ripping each other apart in sometimes hilarious and often frighteningly heartbreaking ways, each retaliatory attack pounding another nail in the coffin. Neither will surrender and the film carries itself relentlessly forward until the pitifully upsetting ending, which leaves the viewer feeling a bit let down.

While the film revolves around the emotions and insecurities of Gary and Brooke, much of the laughs are actually provided by the supporting cast with Jon Favreau as Gary’s straight-shooting bartending friend, Johnny O and John Michael Higgins’ singing Richard being the most effective.

Vaughn plays Gary as the standard, jabbering everyman with a hint of arrogance that makes him alternately meatier and more obnoxious. The viewer isn’t sure whether they should be rooting for him to get the girl or get lost, but for once the rapid-fire timing of Vaughn’s delivery seems to actually hint at something deeper and darker. It’s compelling and it plays well with Aniston’s harried and desperate Brooke, who spends much of the movie frantically trying to make Gary care about her, while doing everything in her power to hurt him as badly as he’s hurt her.

Don’t get me wrong, The Break Up is not a great movie, but it does do a great job of realistically portraying the break up of a previously strong relationship. Rather than focusing on the fairytale romance of the relationship it shows, in painful detail, the minute steps that can force two people further and further apart until the gap between is irreconcilable. I would suggest this movie for those who really like Vince Vaughn and are not currently dealing with a break up of their own.

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