On paper, The Break-Up looks like AN Other glossy, big-name crowd-pleaser: pretty people in pretty places, ideal for glossy popcorn dates. And while there are broad, predictable laughs – a big factor in the film’s $118 million storming of the US box-office – Peyton Reed’s study of unravelling romance is also uncomfortably truthful, unexpectedly moving and bravely steers clear of easy, rom-com resolution. Okay, so we’re hardly talking a Neil LaBute diatribe on the horrors of love, but a sharp script (partially improvised by the cast) provides satisfying shades of light and dark and makes the most of Vince Vaughn’s laconic, Swingers-riffing for the boys and Jennifer Aniston’s wry, snippy schtick for the girls.
The film tells of comfortable couple Gary (Vaughn) and Brooke (Aniston), who reach breaking point after a post-dinner party spat over lemons escalates into an oh-so-recognisable full-scale row about where exactly they’re at. But as any co-habiting duo know, splitting up when sharing a home is easier said than done and both want to keep the gorgeous Chicago apartment they’ve lovingly restored together, while neither is willing to attempt reconciliation. Instead, they resort to dirty trick campaigns of jealousy-inducing dating, bachelor excess and kitchen sabotage. Who will win the battle of the sexes?
Of course, much like Mr & Mrs Smith, there’s a heat magazine-style pleasure to be had in gawping at are-they-aren’t-they real-life squeezes Aniston and Vaughn, and their chemistry invites audience goodwill. Meanwhile, voyeurism-nuts will delight in watching a woman who’s recently waded through a very public split playing out scenes that could well have taken place in the Aniston-Pitt Malibu mansion. Did Brad forget to buy lemons or was it that he wouldn’t help with the dishes?
A shame that we’ll never know – Aniston only going so far as admitting “everyone’s had that argument” during the impersonal commentary from her and Vaughn, which spends much of its time merely name-checking Chicago landmarks. Likewise, it’s wishful thinking to hope that outtakes might include the lovebirds larking about, as, like the ho-hum deleted scenes, they do nothing except serve to show Vaughn’s inventive improvisation. An essential stocking filler, then, for Vaugniston fans, but beware those embroiled in a faltering relationship. This could bring up a few uncomfortable home truths.