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Broken beyond belief

Sometimes things don’t work out. Such is the case with The Break-Up. Not only does the movie’s couple break up, so does the film. The Break-Up is enjoyable at times, but fails miserably in its delivery, leaving viewers drained of energy and disappointed.

Actors Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn play Brooke Meyers and Gary Grobowski, a couple who, after two years together, reach a point where they are at opposite ends of the relationship spectrum. So they break up – but continue to live with one another.

Set in Chicago, the movie starts off sweet, showing Gary winning over Brooke by being annoying yet funny, insisting she accept a hot dog that he’s passing to her from five seats away at a baseball game. Both Aniston and Vaughn stay within their familiar personality roles – Vaughn a fast-talking charmer and Aniston an all-too-familiar Rachel from Friends persona. Then follows a series of candid snapshots of the happy couple together, which begs the question: What went wrong?

The couple already seems so different in their occupations. Gary runs a tour bus company with his two brothers and acts as the tour guide. Brooke is an art dealer at an influential art gallery. However, director Peyton Reed does a good job in showing their chemistry at the beginning of their relationship.

The couple’s first fight in the film is, surprisingly, about lemons. Gary brings home three lemons and Brooke said she wanted 12 to make a centerpiece for a dinner they were hosting at their condominium. The argument over fruit escalates into an avalanche of issues that each person has with the other. Brooke feels unappreciated and would like him to do more for her. Gary feels she nags him too much and just wants to be left alone. Both Vaughn and Aniston do an excellent job; the fight scene leaves viewers gawking at the screen, fully absorbed in every yell and exasperated hand gesture. The argument is so strong that it ends the relationship.

Now is when the situation gets interesting. The couple, afraid that the price of their shared condominium will rise, continues to live together. By refusing to move out, both partake in an unspoken attempt to stay together, which is the only real glow in the film. What follows, however, is a war over which can get the other jealous and force them leave the condominium first. Brooke brings home guys. Meanwhile, Gary hosts a Western-themed strip poker night with his buddy, replete with scantily clad women. This behavior is expected from teenagers, perhaps young adults, but coming from two people who are both well into their 30s, it’s a bit childish. No wonder the two spend so much energy fighting to make up – no other sane adult would tolerate their tactics.

It is apparent that Gary and Brooke still care for one another, but every tactic and scheme drives them further apart. No real effort toward working things out is displayed by either party until later in the film, thereby creating an uncomfortable ambiguity. The constant bickering makes the film drag, creating an atmosphere of restlessness and impatience.

Reed’s greatest accomplishment in directing this film is deception. During the entire film, viewers sit at the edge of their seats, hoping and believing that the couple will work things out. The ending is anything but that, thereby leaving viewers weary and wondering why an hour and half of their time was wasted.

Quite simply, the movie’s string of sporadically charming scenes can’t stitch the film together.

Grade: C

Running time: 106 mins

Rated: PG-13