Jen and Vince, We're Through!
If I had to choose between the Team Jolie t-shirt and the Team Aniston one, I'd probably cast my vote with Team Aniston. She's perky and sweet and in The Good Girl, Jen gave a nuanced performance unexpected for the former Friend. Though when one takes in the track record of recent films, particularly when she goes for comedy like Rumor Has It... which was barely luke warm, it's not looking good for her longevity. Thus it was with guarded curiosity that we took in Team Aniston's newest with Vince Vaughn, the aptly titled The Break Up on Sunday.
With our favorite crap movie companion in tow, Lisa, we settled in for low expectations. However, The Break Up defied those expectations, though not always with the most favorable results.
At the start of the film, we see how Chicagoans Brooke (Aniston) and Gary (Vaughn) meet cute at a Cubs baseball game. She's on a date, he mocks the date and buys her a hot dog. Then two years pass via handy dandy photo montages as the two fall in love, buy a unrealistically huge condo and move in together. The story proper begins on the night of a family dinner party, as Brooke slaves in their posh, yuppie kitchen and Gary lounges on the couch playing video games and offering quasi-help with the preparations. Later, the two get into a terrible row about how Gary's not willing to do the little things for the relationship to show that he cares and they break up.
Around this point in a run of the mill romantic comedy, or even a '30s screwball comedy with Cary Grant like Stanley Cavell's comedies of remarriage, we'd expect Gary or Brooke to move on and then the other to connive to get them back through various prat falls and schemes. While the Break Up has a few ridiculous moments, most of the further interactions between Brooke and Gary as they fight at the bowling alley, fight at their game night and flaunt potential sexual partners at each other, has a tone of realness and an unsettling thread of meanness. These are the kinds of things real people do to each other, yet you feel a little creepy and voyeuristic peeking in on it.
While Vaughn's frat boy charm was stronger in the Wedding Crashers, he's moderately likable here. It is a surprise though to see how doughy Vaughn has gotten since his Swingers days, especially as the equally bulked up Jon Favreau plays his obnoxious sidekick. Speaking of the supporting cast, they're all quite strong from Judy Davis to Vincent D'Onofrio though it would've been nice if Jason Bateman had more than one brief scene and the casting of Ann Margaret as Aniston's mom, who only had a brief scene as well, was perplexing. These moments hinted at more material left on the cutting room floor or in a previous draft of the script.
The film's final surprise is the un-Hollywood ending, where the happy resolution isn't quite what would be assumed from the comedy structure. While it's always a pleasant surprise to see the movie machine do something unexpected, this one feels lackluster and empty 10 minutes after leaving the movie. What are the filmmakers trying to say about the nature of relationships, especially ones with expensive cohabitation? It's seriously unclear. In the end, this movie is really only about the attempts of Team Aniston to bounce back and despite my empathy for her, I'm not totally sold.