Breaking Up is Hard to Do

 

Break-Up, The (2006) Review 5
Director:Peyton Reed,
Starring:Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston
Length:105 minutes
Rated:PG-13

 

 

One might be so inclined to walk into a screening of “The Break-Up” thinking that the title says it all. Except in this case, it doesn’t. Now if the film had the more appropriate title of “The Argument,” then that would have been more like it.

In the movie, real-life lovebirds Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston play a couple that’s on the verge of calling it quits. Vaughn plays Gary Grobowski, a Chicago tour guide who meets Aniston’s Brooke Meyers, an art gallery administrator, at a Cubs game. After two hot-and-heavy years together, their relationship has disintegrated to the point where Gary would rather watch TV than help Brooke prepare a big dinner for their respective families.

That turns out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Brooke, who decides that after being taken advantage of for some time, she’s had enough and wants out of the relationship completely. Gary agrees, but when they both refuse to vacate their posh condo, they soon find themselves in a “War of the Roses”-style battle of wits to see who can make the other person move out first.

That makes for more than a few awkward situations, particularly for their friends and family members, who can only stand by and watch helplessly as Gary and Brooke argue. And argue. And argue. And when Gary isn’t arguing with Brooke, he’s arguing with his brothers (played by Cole Hauser and Vincent D’Onofrio), with whom he co-owns the touring company.

It all gets pretty dramatic at times, except for one thing — “The Break-Up” is supposed to be a date movie. But it’s called “The Break-Up” — not “The Get-Together,” not “The You-Had-Me-At-Hello” and not “The You-Complete-Me.” And that would have been fine if it was directed like a dark, razor-sharp satire along the lines of “War of the Roses.” But director Peyton Reed (“Bring it On,” “Down with Love”) goes for a more straightforward romantic comedy approach, yet all the bickering makes for an unpleasant experience that’s hardly romantic and not much of a comedy. And since its main characters aren’t exactly sympathetic (particularly Vaughn), one has to wonder, who is this movie really for?

Maybe it was for Aniston, who must have found it cathartic to make a film about the dissolution of a relationship after going through such a well-publicized divorce from Brad Pitt (who hooked up with Angelina Jolie during the making of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” which, ironically, also drew comparisons to “War of the Roses” and, coincidentally, also co-starred Vince Vaughn). As it is, there are certain scenes where Aniston breaks down to such a gut-wrenching degree that it’s hard not to wonder how those feelings played out in real life.

But considering that Vaughn co-produced the film and co-wrote the story, it’s surprising how much he comes across looking like such a jerk. His motor-mouth delivery of insults may have worked in his favor as the shallow sidekick in last summer’s surprise hit “The Wedding Crashers,” but as an engaging, romantic leading man, it’s more of a turnoff. His only hope comes when he shares the screen with his best friend, played by Jon Favreau, with whom he made the breakthrough comedy “Swingers” ten years ago.

“The Break-Up” goes downhill before concluding with an obviously tacked-on ending, but at least it will hopefully mark the end of Jennifer Aniston’s prophetically titled movies. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but for the past year, Aniston’s film titles have had a strange habit of mirroring her real-life travails – first there was “Derailed,” then “Rumor Has It…” and now this (I’m sure “Friends with Money” falls in there somewhere too). Regardless, here’s hoping that Aniston’s next movie doesn’t get too close for comfort, unless it has a more upbeat title that will make for a more pleasant cinematic experience.