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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: The Break-Up

Review by Kevin Crossman

The Break-Up is a touching, brutal, and occasionally funny, character drama focusing on the break up of Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston). Despite the stars' comedic pedigree, The Break-Up is not a "romantic comedy" but rather a drama about romantic situations that contains some funny dialogue and scenes. Judged by the intents of the filmmakers, not the film's marketing campaign, The Break-Up is a rousing success.

Conceived as an "anti-Romantic Comedy" by star, producer, and screenwriter Vaughn, the movie has many strengths. First is a challenging and unusual plot, where the couple breaks up during act one. Ostensibly to show Vaughn's character Gary how much he takes her for granted, Aniston's character Brooke breaks up with her boyfriend of two years but neither leaves the condo they share. Thus begins a series of vignettes where each person tries to get back at the other in a twisted strategy to show their love. Per the aims of the filmmakers, neither character acts smarter or more clever than they should, unlike typical RomCom fare. This unusual take on a typical kind of story works for the most part, despite perhaps one or two vignette's too many. And several of these scenes are incredibly dark and powerful, none more so than a scene where Gary surprises Brooke by inviting strippers over for a game of strip poker. But these scenes ultimately lead us a rousing and unexpected conclusion filled with real emotion, powerfully dramatic performances, and just the right amount of "hope."

Vaughn and Aniston remind us they've both done excellent drama work in the past. While both characters share similarities to their more famous Wedding Crashers and Friends counterparts, both actors do a deft job being both sympathetic and cruel during various parts of the movie. The inherent liability of both actors helps the audience root for the couple to mend their differences and get back together despite the apparent class differences between them. As the "talent" part of a tour-bus operation, Vaughn brings many of the quick quips audiences are accustomed to. In this movie, he reminds audiences of his older dramatic roles by delivering several intense monologues. Aniston portrays a character who appears more sophisticated than she really is, and produces a vulnerable performance by the film's conclusion.

The other strength of the movie are the legion of supporting characters who support the story arcs of the main character and defuse the drama with funny or quirky scenes. Jon Favreau plays Gary's worldly bartender and best friend Johnny O. Vaughn and Favreau have a long track-record of chemistry and in this movie it's Favreau who delivers the best lines. There's a scene involving discussion of a hit man where Favreau is particularly effective. He's the best supporting performance in a movie filled with them.

In perhaps the most inspired bit of casting, Vincent D'Onofrio and Cole Hauser play Vaughn's older and younger brothers who make up the 3-Brothers Bus Tours company. Putting Vaughn in the middle really makes these guys look like actual siblings, and Vaughn's character is emotionally in the center of his responsible older brother and womanizing younger one. They're both excellent, especially D'Onofrio who shares several effective scenes with Vaughn.

Other entertaining characters are Aniston's art-dealer boss, played with chew-the-scenery gusto by Judy Davis, and her receptionist played by Justin Long. Vaughn pal Jason Bateman has several good lines as Gary and Brooke's real estate agent. Joey Lauren Adams plays Brooke's best friend Maddie and Peter Billingsley is her suffering husband Andrew. Ann-Margret and Vince's dad Vernon Vaughn play Brooke's parents and John Michael Higgins lightens the mood as her flamboyant brother. Wedding Crashers fans will recognize Kier O'Donnell and Geoff Stults as two of Brooke's dates. You've seen most of these characters in the trailer and the movie expands a little on them.

The Break-Up will appeal to Frat Pack fans who'll enjoy the one-liners but this is no farce typical of the genre. It's a serious look at relationships and what happens when they go wrong. Audiences expecting "Wedding Crashers 2" would be best served to go see You, Me, and Dupree or Talladega Nights this summer. But audiences who are starved for original, unconventional filmmaking could do a lot worse than The Break-Up, the summer's most original comedy, er… drama. We loved this film.