Confession time: One of my least favorite actors is Vince Vaughn. Sure he
was amusing in SWINGERS, partly because he was an unknown quantity. But
then ... I thought he did a pretty good job in CLAY PIGEONS, until I had the
opportunity to interview him for that movie and he was rather unpleasant in person.
I came away from the experience not liking him as a person. I can usually separate
my feelings, but most of the time, the material in which Vaughn appeared was pretty
lame: THE LOCUSTS, the unnecessary Gus Van Sant-directed PSYCHO,
THE CELL, DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE -- the list went on. Then a funny thing
happened: beginning with a small role in THUMBSUCKER, following through with
MR. & MRS. SMITH and culminating in WEDDING CRASHERS, I had to begin
to reevaluate my opinion of Vaughn: he was effective in small roles in the former
two movies, and played well off Owen Wilson and Isla Fisher in the latter. Well, a
couple of steps forward, one step backward, as they say. With THE BREAK-UP,
Vaughn once again essentially essays a jerk, and a not particularly likable one either.
The film's premise is that Gary (Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) are
a couple who have been together for six years. After a rather unpleasant dinner party
with various family members, they have a fight during which Brooke decides they
should maybe take a break. Apparently, it really isn't what Brooke wants but that's
what she has said, so she sticks to her guns. They continue to share a beautiful
condo; she sleeping in the bedroom while he is relegated to the living room. When
it becomes clear that the arrangement is not working, they decide they must sell the
condo in order to move on with their lives.
Perhaps there's a fascinating film at heart, but THE BREAK-UP, written by
debuting screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, from a story idea they
concocted with Vaughn (who also serves as a producer), doesn't take advantage of
the main idea. From the media campaign, one might expect a sort of variation on
Neil Simon's tired THE ODD COUPLE. It's understandable that the writers might not
have wanted to go that route, but the one they have chosen isn't any better. Both
Gary and Brooke are not pleasant characters to be around. He's a child-man who
hasn't grown up. He works with his brothers operating city tours but tends to slack
off on anything that smacks of responsibility. He won't help with the chores around
the condo, nor does he provide "tour logs" that his older brother is constantly
nagging him about either.
Brooke isn't much better, though. She's a control freak who cannot verbalize
her needs. Instead of being straightforward with Gary, she picks fights, then goes
to absurd lengths (like going out on dates to make him jealous) -- all in the vain
attempt to "change" him and to make him realize just how special she is. In a
strange way, these two really do deserve one another.
The only really nice thing about the story is that it doesn't opt for a Hollywood
happy ending. The movie has numerous points where it could have ended but it
just keeps on going. And there are hints of THE WAY WE WERE in the final scene
which feels like an afterthought.
Aniston does an okay job, but her track record as a movie star is fading fast
and pretty soon she'll be competing for the leads in Lifetime movies or pushing
for that "FRIENDS" reunion. Vaughn has spent most of his career playing variations
of Gary, so it's not a stretch for him. He and Aniston do have a peculiar chemistry
that helps a bit, but it's not enough to overcome the film's flaws.
The supporting cast all seems to be coming in from other movie and for the
most part are wasted. Ann-Margaret shows up in the dinner party sequences as
Brooke's mother but gets very little to do. John Michael Higgins tries to make
something of his part as Brooke's possibly gay brother, but he's saddled with bad
writing. Vincent D'Onofrio and Cole Hauser are cast as Gary's brothers, but neither
of these powerful actors make much of an impression. D'Onfrio also has a
cringe-inducing scene at the brothers' workplace. Justin Long has a couple of
amusing moments as Brooke's co-worker.
The best performance in the film, and the only reason I would even think of
suggesting it to anyone, is given by Judy Davis. I'm totally convinced that this
actress can spin gold from dross. Here she is cast as a imperious art gallery
owner and every brief minute she is on screen is a master class in acting. The
few times I laughed during this dismal movie were thanks to Davis and her oddball
creation. If only they had made a movie about her!
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, some
nudity and language
Running time: 105 mins.
Viewed at the AMC Loews 84th Street 6
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.