If “War of the Roses” had a less violent and more down-to-earth step-sister, it would undoubtedly be “The Break-Up.” One of the big differences is that this film focuses on the events leading directly up to the break up rather than telling the entire love story. The acting and often uncomfortable honesty in this film is what truly sets it apart, though.
Gary (Vince Vaughn) is a tour bus guide for Chicago who enjoys a good beer, a good game and doesn’t care to expand energy on much else, while Brooke (Jennifer Aniston), who works in an art gallery, enjoys the somewhat finer things in life. The problem with the two is that they’re on opposite spectrums when it comes to compromie and, as is often the case, their lack of communication leads to their demise.
Vaughn and Aniston give very real performances which suck you into their arguments and make you feel what their character is going through, no matter how unpleasant or uncomfortable. The film excels in showing the pitfalls of relationships and the importance of communication. The dialogue in some of these arguments feels like writers Jay Lavender and Jeremy Garelick held a tape recorder to a real couple duking it out over issues so universal, we’ve all probably been there.
Unfortunately, Lavender and Garelick aren’t as consistent throughout, as the film’s downfall is its uneven script. While there are plenty of funny moments and colorful characters, the balance and blending of comedy and drama ultimately fails. Certain characters like Gary’s brothers and Brooke’s brother are forced upon us in “comedic” situations that aren’t really all that funny, while predictable arguments arise out of seemingly harmless light-hearted moments.
There are some great comedic performances, however. Vaughn continues to be ‘money’ as usual, while bit parts by Jason Bateman, Judy Davis and Justin Long also warrant laughs. The real delight, though, comes from Vaughn’s “Swingers” counterpart Jon Favreau. Favreau plays Johnny O, Gary’s best friend and only source of reliable advice. The scenes Favreau is in are some of the funniest in the film, as he and Vaughn fall into their routine with chemistry like Matthau and Lemmon.
As the movie winds down we see heart in the performances of Aniston and Vaughn which are moving and refreshing. Unfortunately the final scene of the movie falls a bit short and feels forced, which is a stark contrast to the few scenes leading up to it. But this fact doesn’t keep you from an enjoyable overall experience.