The advanced screening gods were silent last week, but spoke in time for me to see The Break-Up Tuesday night. Like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the film's main selling point is the public's curiosity in the on- and offscreen couple. Add to that the talents of director Peyton Reed, who dished out Bring It On and Down with Love, and here's a film that might be worth getting excited about.
If only. Let me say this: as a concept, the film works well. Vince Vaughn can be one of Hollywood's more interesting comic actors, working a natural flow that exudes charm and personality. This film, which he helped write and produce, is an extension of his personal style. The supporting cast appears handpicked -- I noticed that Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams, Vincent d'Onofrio, Jason Bateman, and Justin Long have worked with him before -- and the dialogue feels ad libbed. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't.
For the legal readers out there, The Break-Up is about the life and death of a joint tenancy. Gary (Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) co-own a condo in downtown Chicago. It's nice but not overly extravagant -- no unreal estate here. The couple also seems realistic: Brooke's problems with Gary are mundane, and in an effort to awake him from taking her contributions for granted, she suggests the title act.
But what of the condo? The film's trailer, which is way funnier than the movie itself, emphasizes the efforts of each to get the other to move out. Their realtor friend (Bateman) suggests selling the place and splitting the proceeds. A buyer is imminent, and we wonder if Gary and Brooke will get back together before a sale is made.
The movie itself gets so grounded in reality that it stops being funny and becomes an actorly meditation on relationships, though it's not as boring as I just described it. Leaving the outrageous buddy material to his co-stars, Vaughn stretches his acting abilities a bit to play a flawed, anti-heroic leading man. Aniston is pretty good here as well, though it seems like the ultimate intentions of her character were edited out.
The relationship resolved itself as I had hoped, but the ending was still a abrupt letdown. Half the audience let out an immediate and agitated sigh when the credits started rolling.