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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