The Break-Up is such a strange little movie that I don’t really know what to make of it even days later. The first hour is filled with great relationship comedy. No joke, I laughed a ton (although oddly enough the rest of the theater didn’t share in my jolly time). The last 45 minutes of the film sag a bit but the whole thing seems relatively poised to execute when the film starts (and doesn’t stop) making goofy choices. And therein lies the dilemma with The Break-Up, it’s more innovative than effective and more funny than sentimental, all weird attributes for a romantic comedy. Perhaps I’m putting it into a category in which it doesn’t belong, the evil rom-com. Maybe at the end of the day it’s not really a romantic comedy, it’s a dramedy. This doesn’t wholly excuse the considerable failures of the movie but it would explain why they had to be attempted at least.
The dramedy was perfected by Sir Cameron Crowe and can be seen in vivid Technicolor in films such as Elizabethtown (review) and Almost Famous. The genre (which almost nothing else fits into) mixes laughs and tears in a topsy turvy sing song fashion. This is a completely separate deal from familial dramedies such as Family Stone (review) and Winter Passing (review). Of course neither the dramedy nor the famial dramedy have anything at all to do with the romantic comedy (Serendipity, Love Actually). The real problem here is they keep trying to redefine the genre with things like action romantic comedies (Mr. and Mrs. Smith). Sorry for all the exposition but this tortured road does lead us to The Break-Up which I hereby propose was shooting for a genre that it doesn’t quite get to.
The Break-Up is the story of Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston as a couple that split within the first ten minutes of the film. If that’s a spoiler than the title is too and I can only protect you so much. Then they fight over the condo in a modern day twist on War of the Roses. One other quick note- the opening credits are a Jenn/Vince photo montage which seems to be pulled straight from the pages of a Vanity Fair photo shoot. They are candid shots, but candid shots of COOL, so it really starts the film off oddly. I don’t think many couples have candids of themselves in bed unless they have neighbors with ankle bracelets too. But I digress and we’re back on track, they break-up, they both want the condo, and we’re off with what should be a simple story.
Only somehow, against all odds, it’s not simple at all. This is a movie aiming for depth. A comedy aiming for depth? Yeah, you read me right. The hilarious first act keeps fizzling towards the end of the film until finally it fizzles right out and you’re left wondering what the hell just happened. You won’t know where the story is going, so high marks for innovation, but it goes nowhere, so low marks for execution. See the problem yet?
In the final verdict, and after a lengthy battle in my head, I’d say The Break-Up is worth seeing. I’ve given movies the old C+ before and said don’t bother with them but this one has interesting moments. It has great scenes of comedy, nice one-liners, some Favreau, and some decent acting from the cute leading couple. The fact that it also has some rage issues, a gonzo plot, and about 20 extra minutes isn’t enough to completely destroy it. On the whole it’s worth seeing for the science project aspect alone. Or in other words; What could they have done to save this little volcano?