Review by Paul Stathakis | 2006

Two can play that game

Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) meet at a Chicago Cubs game.  He buys her a hot dog and then he offers to buy her dinner.  The opening sequence then follows, a montage of pictures showing Gary and Brooke madly in love, kissing at barbeques, smiling, and holding each other.  The pictures speak a thousand words and we clearly understand that they became a couple.

Skip to present day.  Gary and his two brothers Dennis (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Lupus (Cole Hauser) run a Chicago tour bus company.  Gary lives in a neat condominium with Brooke and early on in “The Break-Up”, the two argue over lemons.  Gary should’ve bought twelve lemons instead of three.  Brooke then explains how she would like for Gary to want to do the dishes and not have be asked to do them.  The argument gets ugly, both yell at each other, and you can guess the rest.  The two decide to call it quits but then there is the issue of the condo and who gets to stay and who gets to leave. 

Gary doesn’t mind sleeping on a couch bed as long as he can watch sports highlights, drink beer, eat chips, and scatter his clothes all over the living room floor.  Then there’s Brooke who turns to her best friend, Addie (Joey Lauren Adams), for advice. Addie believes Brooke should find ways to make Gary jealous.  Brooke decides to go on several dates and has her dates pick her up at the apartment each time.  Of course, Brooke is not interested in any of the men but she does succeed at catching Gary’s attention – especially when she returns from a wax parlor and wanders around the apartment completely naked.  Her tactics work because Gary becomes jealous.  However, her actions inspire him to ‘play back’ and, consequently, do the same to her.  Imagine how far he goes.  He buys the pool table he’s always wanted and even organizes a night of strip-poker with his friends and strippers at the apartment.  Is this realistic?  Would someone really go to these extremes to innerve an ex-partner?  Probably not.  But in a comedy like “The Break-Up”, it’s amusing to watch the characters challenge each other in these absurd ways. 

“The Break-Up” is a warm comedy, not only funny, not always funny, but also serious.  The biggest surprise of the film are the performances and how real they are.  Pay attention to the scene where Gary expresses to Brooke how he feels about their relationship.  His words are hurtful and we see just how angry he is.  We wonder if Vaughn was really upset at that particular moment and maybe the camera just started rolling.  It is surprising.  Vince Vaughn is sensational, more so than he was in last year’s “Wedding Crashers” (2005).  Jennifer Aniston is equally gratifying in her role.  She is sexy, confident, and she turns in a performance that complements her work in other films like “The Good Girl” (2002) and “Derailed” (2005). 

The supporting cast, which includes Jon Favreau, is just as noteworthy.  Some films contain secondary characters who exist to either fill time or distract the viewer from what the film is really about.  None of the supporting members harm this movie.  Vincent D’Onofrio explodes onto the screen with an outstanding performance that is touching and funny all at once.  We never doubt his acting abilities especially when he confronts Gary at work.  Favreau and Vaughn reuniting for “The Break-Up” is a treat to the many viewers who enjoyed their film “Swingers.”  Yes, this is the closest thing to a “Swingers” sequel.  Gary, I like to think, is a more mature version of Trent but that I still sensed a little bit of Trent in Gary made me smile. 

There are numerous comedies that have been made about relationships.  Woody Allen has written and directed several.  Others are still trying to make them.  “The Break-Up” is by no means a masterpiece.  It’s not “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) but reminds of it somehow.  We believe the characters, some of the situations, the drama, and the humorous moments.  Perhaps the ending might seem a little subtle but, if I’m not mistaken, you’ll be glad it exists. 


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