The Breaker Upperers is a Downer

Produced by Taika Waititi, this New Zealand import is occasionally funny. Hell, it’s occasionally inspired when it comes to situational comedy, where break-up artists Jen and Mel foible long-term relationships with all manner of ribald fraud and mockery. It’s a high concept with room for hilarity and, above all, greatness. And thanks to Jackie Van Beek as one of two heroines, Jen is an unlikable waste of character. We’re supposed to empathize with a woman who’s still hung up on a man that cheated on her fifteen years ago? As Mel, Madeleine Sami is cute, funny, quick, lovable, everything you could want from a comedian leading the charge in her first international movie, yet her film is undone by a partner-in-crime whose straight-woman antics are neither relatable nor funny in their own right. Doesn’t help that Jen treats everyone with the same callous regard that she treats herself and her own life. Sure, I get it, she’s stuck in the past and she’s gotta learn a lesson or two before we kiss and make up by the end, but the resolution is far too pat and inconsequential to really care. Props to Sami as Mel who’s a proper dag, and young actor James Rolleston as a clueless hunk for making The Breaker Upperers as bearable as it is at times. However, when a film relies so heavily on lead actor charm and lead character charity and half of that equation is bunk, that high concept suddenly feels pretty low.

Grade: D+

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