Friday, June 02, 2006

The Break-up - Movie Review

The Break-Up 2006

After viewing “The Break-Up”, the new flick haphazardly marketed as a Romantic Comedy and starring the rumored to be real life couple Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston – we were left with three questions:

1. Whatever happened to good movies about relationships?
2. Why did Ann-Margret agree to be cast in a throwaway cameo role?
3. What the hell has Vince Vaughn been eating lately? Or what HASN’T he been eating lately?

While we admit freely to being a fan to Miss Aniston’s effusive charms, our feelings for Mr. Vaughn are more ambivalent. We have admired him for his own particular brand of Tourette Syndrome punchline delivery, and admonished him for his lack of taste in choosing roles. But nothing in his previous work prepared us for seeing this once appealing tall-and-tender huckster shill his way across the screen resembling an overstuffed goose ready for the nearest Pâté de Foie Gras factory.

Sporting an elongated Caesar haircut that only emphasizes his new found rotundity; he practically wheezes his lines of dialogue in a desperate effort to sell them. Since the screenplay credit announces, or rather threatens that he himself is responsible for the storyline – he thankfully has at least two co-writers to blame for the finished script. But no amount of therapy is going to help him place the blame on anybody but his own Caligula-like appetite for the shocking weight gain. Vince has gone on the record as stating that his weight gain was in direct correlation to his quitting smoking. Our advice, for the sake of moviegoers worldwide and the children – pick up a GODDAMN CIGARETTE AND PUT DOWN THE FORK!!

Now, while some of you might be tsk, tsking us for focusing our review thus far on Vince’s unfortunate blimpitude, we will now attempt to connect his flabbiness to the amazingly banal tale to be found in “The Break-Up”. The filmmakers would have us believe that a young lady such as Miss Aniston – and lest you believe that we are deferring to her charms alone, we also have a bit of advice for the former “Friend-ster”. Lay off the damn tanning booth! Jesus, woman! The flick is set in Chicago, that not-so-great city by the lake that is hardly known for its sunny beaches, you Melanoma chasing whore. Oops. Where were we?

Oh, yes. The script. As the film starts, we are introduced to Gary, a tour bus guide and Brooke, an art gallery director as they meet at a baseball game. (Ugh. Red flag, number one!) Or rather, as Brooke is harassed by a large bloated asshole who having ordered six hot dogs deigns to share one with the only available female within sight. Classy. After the opening credits roll, we are inundated with floating close-ups via a photo montage meant to depict the happier times of their subsequent relationship, but which only produce nausea from seeing Vince’s enormous jowls circumnavigating Jennifer’s Defcon 1 shade of burn victim. The break-up portion of the film happens within their second scene. They are comfortably settled into their condo, preparing for a dinner party that will hopefully bring their families closer together when we discover the source of their acrimony.

She does too much for him. He does too little. And since we get this from the second he plunks his Mammoth-like ass onto the couch to watch TV while she slaves in the kitchen (and catches some more rays by the refrigerator light) to prepare for their soiree – we have to wonder. Why on earth should we give two shits about their relationship, when they cannot be bothered to express their most basic needs? Are these the two dumbest people on the planet, or merely the most self absorbed. And how on earth did they ever end up together from their less than stellar “meet cute”, which clearly demonstrated how wrong they were for each other to begin with.

But as any Beauty Pageant Contestant or Insane Asylum Patient can tell you, the course of true love is blind to the selfish needs of the individual who presumes to believe that the world rotates on the axis of their own asshole. After a disastrous dinner scene wherein we are forced to sit thru the first painfully unfunny scenario of Brooke’sIs he Gay, or just musically inclined” brother overplayed to the back balcony by the normally effective John Michael Higgins – we are praying for a genuine laugh or at least a believable moment. Neither will be found.

It is in this horrid scene that we catch a glimmer, a mere glance of the still handsome Ann-Margret replete with a new wig and nail job eschewing the role of Brooke’s mother for a scant thirty five seconds. Ann-Margret, Annie, Annala – we love you and your two Oscar nominations, what the hell happened? It must be with some sort of ironic smirk that the movie Gods and Goddesses have cast our once fabulous Ann-Margret in this dreck, particularly since her first Oscar nomination thirty five years ago for “Carnal Knowledge” captured perfectly one of the most famous “break-up” scenes in film history. Oh, Ann-Margret if this is the only role offered to you, please heed our advice and stay retired. Let Shirley MacLaine play them. Good knows she’s done worse lately.

Back to the buswreck. After the dinner from hell, we get the break-up from hell. Anger, bitterness, resentment, forcing friends to take sides, staging elaborate ruses to inspire jealousy, the inevitable scene of regret, the breakdown, and if you’re still reading this far, you must really be a glutton for punishment. So you might actually enjoy this movie.

What truly saddened us about this flick is the utter waste of talent. Judy Davis, who has seen better days is trudged out in a severe Sigourney Weaver meets Louise Brooks bob to imitate a human being who runs an art gallery where Brooke works. Or rather where Brooke meets the perfect man, as portrayed by Ivan Sergei – the hotty from an infinitely better flick about relationships “The Opposite of Sex”. Here he portrays a rich, gorgeous, dimple in the chinned chap who is not only single and sane, but is genuinely interested in Brooke and her opinions. So, of course she obsesses about her failing relationship with the fleshbag currently playing video games on her couch and power eating the nearest junk food.

Other talent to be wasted includes Jason Bateman as their realtor / friend (how is that possible, we ask you?), Cole Hauser as Gary’s younger brother whose social skills at meeting women are one club-over-the-head short of Genghis Khan, Peter Billingsley (perhaps the only normal former child star of the 80’s) as the dishrag married to Joey Lauren Adams of the adenoidal voice and dishpan face (so really, it’s a good pairing) as Brooke’s alleged best friend who is completely incapable of offering anything remotely resembling advice.

But since nothing in this film remotely resembles reality, it’s really par for the course.

Faring slightly better, are Vince’s former partner in crime, actor / writer / director / talk show host / and obvious fellow junk food junkie, Jon Favreau as Gary’s bartender buddie who ultimately lays down the bitchslap meant to awaken Gary’s long dormant sense of humanity. It fails, but then so does the film. And thankfully Jon Favreau was never a matinee idol type like Vince, so his extra blubber sits comfortably on the Sharpei like rolls of his neckfat aiding his drunken Buddha like characterization.

It is left to scene stealer Vincent D’Onofrio to emulate the one interesting character in the whole piece. Gary’s hyperstrung elder brother fixated on a military like takeover of Chicago’s guided tours. Trust us, his rants on conquering the land, sea and air of the Windy City’s sightseeing minions is an all too brief and welcomed comic relief.

While the script never rises above puppet theatrics, the uninspired direction singles our formal sign off on the tremulous talents of Peyton Reed. The man responsible for the bizarrely endearing cheerleader comedy “Bring It On”, and who garnered points for attempting stylistics in his homage to vintage Doris Day / Rock Hudson romantic comedies with “Down With Love”. Here, he completely abandons any sense of style, or pacing or tact for that matter. But with the clunking dialogue and laminate deep emotions, we can hardly blame him alone for the ultimate failure.

By the time the flick has reached its penultimate scene wherein the couple meets one last time in their now abandoned condo we are grateful the flick seems to be coming to its blessedly long overdue end. Their muted farewells ring far truer than the hideously tacked on ending, forced down the filmmakers throats by “test audiences” where they meet ONE last time, with the juvenilely clear intention to inspire a reconciliation or God forbid, a sequel.

Go rent a good break-up dramedy like “Annie Hall” or a more realistic one like “The War of the Roses” for a far better film experience. Hell, go rent a true classic from the Golden Age like “The Awful Truth” or “The Philadelphia Story” or the masterful “The Palm Beach Story”: all of which capture flawlessly the deterioration of a relationship with warmth, humor and style. Three vital ingredients sorely missing in this film. You’ll thank us later. Bless you all!

Directed by Peyton Reed
Screenplay by Jeremy Garelick & Jay Lavender
Story by Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Garelick & Jay Lavender

Vince Vaughn as Gary Grobowski
Jennifer Aniston as Brooke Meyers
Joey Lauren Adams as Addie
Peter Billingsley as Andrew
Cole Hauser as Lupus Grobowski
Jon Favreau as Johnny O
Jason Bateman as Riggleman
Judy Davis as Marilyn Dean
Justin Long as Christopher
Ivan Sergei as Carson Wigham
John Michael Higgins as Richard Meyers
Ann-Margret as Wendy Meyers
Vincent D’Onofrio as Dennis Grobowski

Cinematography by Eric Edwards
Film Editing by Dan Lebental & David Rosenbloom
Original Music by Jon Brion
Production Design by Andrew Laws
Set Decoration by Daniel B. Clancy
Costume Design by Carol Oditz


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