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Trading on the enormous popularity of stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston (and their highly public off-screen romance), The Break-Up is advertised as a light romantic comedy. But The Break-Up (rated PG-13 for sexual content, some nudity and language) begins where most romantic comedies leave off, and is probably not the film audiences are expecting.
A cutesy introduction by Gary (Mr. Vaughn) to Brooke (Ms. Aniston) and their courtship are dispensed with during the opening credits. What follows is, true to the film's title, a document of their extended, painful breakup. The results are decidedly mixed, but were it not so crass, The Break-Up might actually have qualified as a decent film.
There's a refreshing honesty to both the concept and the execution of this anti-romantic comedy. Most romantic comedies end with an emotionally satisfying but empty and ambiguous fulfillment of romantic longing. Rarely does the audience actually get to see what the happy couple will face when they live together or make some sort of long-term commitment to the relationship.
The closest that The Break-Up gets to such movieland artificiality is the device that keeps Gary and Brooke, once their relationship fizzles, together-neither wants to vacate the attractive Chicago condo they jointly own. It's a scenario that's not too farfetched, and neither are the reasons the couple constantly fight. Gary wants to come home from work and crash on the couch with a video game. Brooke wants to see that Gary appreciates her-she doesn't just want him to set the table or do the dishes, she wants him to want to set the table and do the dishes.
The fights only get worse as both Gary and Brooke dig in their heels. The film starts out light (and very funny), but becomes increasingly serious and bitter. The shift in tone corresponds to the plot but will probably throw off audiences who expect the familiar cadences of romantic comedies.
The Break-Up stands out because Gary and Brooke aren't kept apart by the whimsical hands of movieland fate, but by their own pride, selfishness, and often willful miscommunication. And they pay the consequences for their actions. For that candor, one might overlook some of the film's artistic weaknesses, but a steady stream of bad language and lewd sexual humor seriously mars an intriguing project.