has been inaccurately described as this summer’s first romantic comedy, a misleading and inappropriate label. There’s nothing romantic going on in the Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston
film and there’s very little real comedy either. Think a watered-down version of War of the Roses
with less biting wit and sarcasm - and a little less physical comedy - and you’ve got a very good idea of what you can expect from this mean-spirited movie.
Vince Vaughn stars as Gary Grobowski, a Chicago tour bus guide who spends his days doing stand-up comedy routines in front of vacationers eager to laugh. After putting in a hard days-worth of joke telling, he enjoys nothing more than to go home, crash on his comfy sofa, pop open a few beers, and watch sports or play video games while his infinitely classier girlfriend, Brooke (Jennifer Aniston), takes care of everything around the house. She cooks, she cleans, and does all the planning for those occasions when Gary liberates his rear from the sofa and the two go out. She’s like a classic TV sitcom homemaker without the pearls but with a supermodel body.
Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in The Break-Up.© Universal Pictures
The film provides nothing in the way of background information so as far as we can tell, the twosome spend 90% of their evenings together with Gary settled on the couch and Brooke waiting on him hand and foot. Two years of that and finally
Brooke snaps out of her Stepford Wives
-ish trance. She says enough is enough when Gary brings her three lemons instead of a dozen right before a big dinner party with both of their families. And come on people, how can you possibly have a party without 12 lemons? That's
the straw that broke the camel's back? Most women would have pushed him off that couch at least a full year earlier.
The above synopsis makes Gary sound like the bad guy in this relationship and that’s just not true. Brooke has her own share of faults. She apparently has the sense of humor of a dead gnat and is big on nagging. She pushes his buttons; he takes her for granted. He can’t stand her flamboyant ‘he’s not gay’ brother. She bugs him about going to the ballet.
As the relationship crashes down around them they snarl their way through vicious verbal arguments, but it doesn’t matter who comes out on top. It's impossible to care who gets to keep the condo. They’re just a couple of strangers to the audience or, even worse, they’re people we don’t like enough to be concerned about.
Why these two people are together at all makes no sense and since the film skips over any happy moments they may have experienced as a couple, we're left guessing how they could have ever sustained a relationship for two years. It also skips over anything that might have made either lead character appealing.
The bright moments in The Break-Up come when Vaughn shares the screen with someone he’s got great chemistry with – Jon Favreau. More Favreau and less snipping and silly breaking up stunts and The Break-Up could have been a decent dark comedy. Another stand-out in the supporting cast is John Michael Higgins as Aniston’s brother. Higgins steals scenes by being the most out-there character in the film, and by adding a little spark to a film seriously missing comedic energy.
It’s unclear whether Vaughn and Aniston work together well onscreen as The Break-Up
offers them only a very limited opportunity to appear together without screaming involved. There are no cuddly, lovey-dovey moments and although Aniston’s naked – yes, it is actually her and not a body double – there’s nothing sexual or romantic in this anti-romantic, anti-comedy.
As for the ballyhoo surrounding the reshot ending, there’s a reason for the uproar. The ending attached to the completed theatrical release replaces one which apparently didn’t test well with preview audiences. If this one’s better, then the original one must have been horrific. The last 10 minutes of The Break-Up make the first hour and a half look Oscar-worthy in comparison. What a let-down.
The poster for The Break-Up asks us to pick a side. Unfortunately the film doesn’t offer a significant reason to expend the energy to make a choice.
The Break-Up was directed by Peyton Reed and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, some nudity and language.