Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Jeremy Garelick & Jay Lavender
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Ann-Margret, Judy Davis
Relationships formed between two people require some push and pull in order to be a well-running and cohesive unit. When one person runs at 30% then the other must meet them with the remaining 70%. These divisions of effort may not always be equal but the scales must flow in order to maintain the relationship. The stagnation of this scale ultimately drives the plot of The Break-Up, but it fails in describing how the scale ever managed to stand from the very beginning.
Having met at a Cubs game and dating for quite some time now, Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) live in their Chicago condo together. After a rocky dinner with their families where Brooke puts together the entire dinner and Gary refuses to help out, they ponder whether or not their relationship should continue.
When a film comes with the title of The Break-Up, you just know things are not going to go well. The process of seeing couples in most well-done romantic comedies split apart, should cause pain for the audience, because we should be rooting for them to get back together. Unfortunately, for this feature, I never felt these two should have been coupled from the beginning, and reconciliation would be the worst thing to happen to them. This unshakable feeling dictates what makes this film unsatisfactory and honestly quite troubling in the way these two characters are treated by the story.
As their arguments commence, it’s made clear Brooke does everything for Gary from washing his clothes, cooking dinner, going to his favorite events, supporting his business dreams, and is portrayed by Jennifer Aniston. Gary, on the other hand, comes home and cannot complete the simplest tasks asked by his loving partner and ceaselessly complains because he has to work, which would be somewhat understandable if Brooke did not also work a full-time job on top of everything else she does. This harrowing imbalance inevitably pushes Brooke to the edge and she begins the process of separation between them. The story then turns into a game of Brooke trying to get him to understand she wants him to try and Gary just occupying the living room playing video games and getting drunk.
Not only does the film create this epic imbalance, but it also has the nerve to try to equate the games Brooke plays of making Gary jealous to the complete sloth-like behavior presented by the latter. To make things perfectly clear, this relationship fails because of the actions, or better yet, inactions of Gary but the film tries to toe the line of it being a joint contribution. That may be the case for most relationships, but it could not be made any more clear it does not apply to Gary and Brooke. It may make more sense if Gary brought anything of note to this relationship or anything to make me comprehend why someone as driven and successful as Brooke would stick around with this guy. Perhaps the casting department grossly overestimated the charm Vince Vaughn could bring to this role. It just seemed like another case of a guy dating someone completely out of his league and acting like he’s the catch in this dynamic.
Conceivably this film really irritates me because I’m married and I notice all of the things my spouse and I do for each other. If I came anywhere close to acting like Gary, I certainly would not blame my partner for leaving me, because I would essentially be deadwood in her life. I would not even root for myself in that situation, so trying to follow along with this story and the attempts of reconciliation for Gary were never going to work. I cringed at the end of the initial dinner where Brooke simply asks him to help her with the dishes and he whines and complains like he’s some child.
Jennifer Aniston definitely did her best with the character of Brooke, as she shoulders the majority of the emotional scenes. She really drives home the point that she gives her entire world to this guy just to get nothing in return. She remains the only bright spot of this film along with some nice moments by Vincent D’Onofrio as Gary’s older brother. I find no fault with the acting, because they take the characters and put together the performances dictated to them, but they were simply left to drown in such a rotten and hollow story.
Towards the end, The Break-Up finds its footing as to what it wants to do narratively, but it still fails to address its fundamental issues. These two folks were never meant to be together and the idea I should be rooting for them for even a second feels quite insulting for anyone who has been in a serious relationship. Brooke deserved better from the very beginning and I would rather see the story of her finding herself and reflecting on how she got involved in such a terrible relationship.