Despite its many predictable mistakes, the new Hollywood summer comedy The Break-Up concludes its economically-told story by remaining faithful to the suggestion of its title. The choice of filmmakers to offer a non-Hollywood ending, in this age of studio-committee calculated crowd-pleasers, is to a small degree refreshing. The sour taste formed throughout the movie’s denouement lingers in the mind of any viewer who managed to identify with its depiction of love’s domestic incompatibilities â€” as if, by serving up its more realistic alternative, the director’s intention were to spite every film buff who ever poo-pooed a pat Hollywood coda. The two stars, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, are shown falling in love during a clever (if sentimental) slide show of realistically composed photographs that unfolds during the opening credit sequence. Although they bask in a new love’s glow, often lip-locked, the stars share only one filmed kiss (and a feeble, awkward one at that), and spend the majority of the film at each other’s throats. Although their affection for each other remains visible in their body language, it is a steadily waning affection. The film wittily captures exactly what it purports to: the dissipation of a typical thirty-something pre-marital urban relationship.
The movie is worth seeing more for its wit than for the risks it takes. Vaughn, playing an overweight, slightly weary, version of his suave swinger type, carries the show. His banter, both friendly and mean-spirited, heightens any scene to manic brilliance; John Favreau holds his own in such dialogue (as usual) while Aniston’s acting improves by it. The excellent supporting (Favreau, Judy Davis, Joey Lauren Adams, Justin Long) cast is largely wasted on C-grade “character”-parts, especially Davis (who nonetheless gets one of the film’s funniest bits, a sly Telly Savalas reference). Favreau is favored with solid screen time, playing his scenes with conviction but also a bit of the arrogance afforded by a bit-part he knows those in the vanguard of the pop-cultural know will appreciate.
In fact, the film’s appeal is doubtless special to those who came of age with 90s fare such as Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Swingers; who, like the film’s stars, are now also encountering the malaise of life around thirty.