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Written by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender
Directed by Peyton Reed
Starring Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Aniston and Jon Favreau

Although I try to limit my reading of celebrity gossip rags to while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, I will admit to being taken in by the plight of frequent cover girl, Jennifer Aniston. She’s the girl next door and the poor thing was left behind by one of the prettiest boys on the planet for one of the prettiest girls on the planet. She locked herself away in her Malibu beach house and spoke to no one but family and former cast mates from “Friends”, the TV show that made her into an international star, but whose success is making it very difficult for her to establish herself as a bankable movie star. When THE BREAK-UP began filming in Chicago, the irony of the casting caught on and before long the rumours spread that Aniston and co-star, Vince Vaughan, were getting close. As they have no interest in confirming details of their relationship to the public, the intrigue is still high more than a year later. In that time, countless articles have dropped about the broken girl and the man determined to bring happiness into her life again and each of those articles has made mention of this movie. THE BREAK-UP is the world’s keyhole to peer through for a glimpse of what Jen and Vince are really like.

Of course that’s ridiculous as they are actors playing parts in the movie but neither of these actors stretches themselves much further than their established personas so its pretty darn close. And director, Peyton Reed (BRING IT ON, DOWN WITH LOVE), gives the audience exactly what it has been craving without delay during an opening credit montage of photographs of the happy couple doing nothing but being madly in love. It’s a succession of every photograph the paparazzi wishes it could get hold of. Jen and Vince, who should count themselves very fortunate their names don’t blend well into one defining moniker, play Brooke Meyers and Gary Grubowski, two people who look simply natural and happy photographed playing games with friends or dressed as cows for some costume contest. Not only does this satisfy the bizarre celebrity fascination that inexplicably drew us to the theatre in the first place, it also serves a great function for the film as well. We are now set up to realize what these two are throwing away when they break up in the next scene.

The break-up itself exemplifies what works and what does not about this film. It comes fast and early in the film and it is not pleasant to watch. There are many an angry word said and the condo the couple share stinks of regret, uncertainty and fear once all the doors have been shut. The level of pain reached in this scene is unexpected and atypical for a romantic comedy but commendable for its striving to be realistic. Break-ups are not funny; they hurt and this scene does not pretend otherwise. But are break-ups still happening because of the tired issues these two have? He wants to just come home and have a beer and a minute to himself while she wants him to want to do the dishes. Obviously, there is more to it than that but neither one of them seems to have a clue how to say it and instead of realizing that they’re both not expressing themselves properly, they yell louder so the other can really get it. Not surprisingly, that doesn’t work.

And so the now defunct couple fights for ground and supremacy for the rest of the film. The war that ensues grows out of hand with mixed results. Fighting with witty banter can energize a viewer to take sides and get into it but fighting that pretty much entails nothing more than screaming hurtful things is just awkward and can make the viewer want to leave the room to give them some privacy. And while the laughs do come, they are not always enough to forget that these two never really wanted to break up in the first place. Their antics make it more and more impossible to go back and repair their busted relationship. The hope they will finally learn how to say what they truly need to each other, like the not-so-complicated “I just want us to see each other, be there for each other and not take the other for granted”, falls further away. And before you know it, this romantic comedy has become a romantic tragedy.

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