Film Reviews (2006)  
  The Break Up  

Peyton Reed’s huge gamble with “The Break-Up” was to tell a grown-up story about two grown-ups who meet, have a lovely grown-up time together, and then break up in a manner which is first characterized by acts of selfishness and immaturity but eventually settles into a grown-up parting of grown-ups.

Spot the risk yet?

Reed and his producers must have ignored the fact that grown-up movies are box office poison, or maybe they intended to counter-attack the onslaught of summer movies. In any case let’s hope this one doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. This is a decent little film that succeeds as much as a relationship drama as a date-night comedy. “The Break-Up” won’t make anyone forget “Annie Hall”, but Vince Vaughn’s linebacker of a man charms us with his unapologetic loutishness, Jennifer Aniston’s bronzed pixie mesmerizes us, and Vincent D’Onofrio hams it up enough for an even, pleasant ride offering a few chestnuts of wisdom about men and women.

Here is one. During a fight over a sink full of dirty dishes, Gary (Vaughn) tries to placate Brooke (Aniston) by giving in and doing the dishes. “No!” she snaps in a tone of pleading exasperation. “I want you to want to wash the dishes!” Surely all of us have been either Gary or Booke in that situation, and many of us, at one point or another, have been both. It’s a simple, unassuming, but bitingly honest line that deserves a place in Hollywood screenwriting immortality. The movie is salted with enough of those trenchant observations to ring true for most of the people who watch it, whatever their luck in relationships has been.

There’s a deep problem with the movie, though. Reed had to establish two leads who, likable by themselves, out of dramatic necessity can have only a limited amount of chemistry together. A fast montage of photos is the only proof we have that these people once loved each other. That ends with the opening credits. Without seeing them in the grip of love, Gary and Brooke come off as slightly tedious. Most of the film’s running time is spent waiting for Gary and Brooke to catch up and figure out what the audience already knows. Still, “The Break-Up” is gutsy in its attempt to capture a touch of real life, and generally the cast shows off good chemistry, particularly when Vaughn and old pal Jon Favreau indulge in boozy repartee that sparkles with grizzled manwit.