The Break-Up (12A)

ANDREW CLARKE There is a term in the film business called counter-programming. This usually comes into play in the summer when a Hollywood studio releases a small-scale movie to attract audiences who are not interested in the testosterone-packed blockbusters.

ANDREW CLARKE

There is a term in the film business called counter-programming. This usually comes into play in the summer when a Hollywood studio releases a small-scale movie to attract audiences who are not interested in the testosterone-packed blockbusters.

Occasionally, this policy works well and we are rewarded with a film like The Dish - small-scale, hugely entertaining comedy about the 1969 moon landings - or you at the other end of the scale you get The Break-Up.

This is a so-called romantic comedy, but I searched in vain for anything to laugh along with. It's just a rather nasty, not very engaging soap opera about a couple who are just not talking to one another any more. During the break-up the relationship, such as it is, turns into really nasty game of one-upmanship.

The major problem with The Break-Up is that you can't see why this couple ever got together in the first place. She is a Rachel-clone, her character in Friends, an uptight, well-educated professional sales person who works in a fashionable art gallery; he is a self-employed, boorish, self-centred slob who runs a tour guide business with his two brothers.

We first meet them in a pre-credits sequence where they first meet. He is at a baseball game with his bar-owning friend while she is on a first date with a rather uncomfortable looking middle-class professional. Vaughn, showing the pushiness of his character, insists she eats a hot dog that she doesn't want and then at the end of the game bamboozles her into accepting a date with him. There is no way that a self-assured person like Brooke (Aniston) would ever let themselves get bullied into a relationship in that way.

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It's a movie which takes clichéd problem page situations and thinks it is offering genuine insights into how we live our lives. Everything is too black and white for that. Aniston's Brooke is too perfect and Vaughn's Grobowski is too much of a self-absorbed oaf to ever-be considered close to a real character.

I suppose it's designed to appeal to a female audience, but I doubt that anyone would consider these cardboard characters to be close to real people.

Even the supporting characters, such as her annoying singing brother and the gay receptionist at the gallery, are so broadly drawn that they cease to be believable individuals.

The Break-Up is hard work and the fact that Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn have become a real-life couple since the film is rather surprising because there is a distinct lack of chemistry on screen and the whole affair plods along in an increasingly leaden way.

It's billed as a romantic comedy but there are precious few laughs here.

 

 

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