Saturday, February 16

The Breaker Upperers Review

By Emery Snyder @leeroy711
Director: Madeleine Sami & Jackie Van Beek
Starring: Madeleine Sami, Jackie Van Beek, James Rolleston & Ana Scotney
Netflix Original – February 15, 2019

Mel (Sami) and Jen (Van Beek) are best friends and business partners. They provide a service concocting elaborate schemes to break people up from their unhappy relationships. As is inclined to happen, feeling get caught, and emoticons get in the way of their professionalism. This is a comedy from New Zealand, executive produced by Kiwi comedy royalty, Taika Waititi. It is written and directed by its two stars, Sami and Van Beek, both of which have previously had small roles in other Waititi films.

Central to the plot is the two ladies’ profession. It’s a job that obviously could never exist in the real world and it tends to set off alarm bells in my head. It’s not that I need these types of elements to be rooted in anything remotely resembling reality. It’s just that it immediately reminds me of some of the worst and laziest romantic comedies of the past two decades. These are the films in which Mathew McConaughey would typically play the handsome man-child who goes toe-to-toe with the beautiful but cold interventionalist like Sarah Jessica Parker in FAILURE TO LAUNCH (’06) or Kate Hudson in HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (’03). Montages are used to pass the time, writing templates are strictly adhered to, the lies and cover-ups get more ridiculous and hilarity ensues. In these films, the central conflict typically falls apart if one of the main characters would just simply tell the truth… you know… like real people do. These films typically bug me quite a bit because I find the characters to be so unbelievably unrelatable.

Fortunately, this film avoids the worst of these landmines. It still follows the same plot beats
and a lot of the characters’ actions lean into the outlandish zone. But the relationship between the film’s two main characters feels organic and weighted. The ‘May-December Romance’ and the ‘Hung-up on the ex-boyfriend’ subplots are just that. They’re ancillary and tangential at best. What is key is the relationship between two long-time best friends. They feel like real people, just funnier. And their friendship is based on a history of mutual love, respect and support.

The film suffers a bit unfortunately from the needlessness of the ‘ex-boyfriend’ subplot. It was fine as part of the characters’ background. But it seems like filler when we have to actually meet him. Ultimately, the scene he is in ends up only detracting from the overall charm. And with a running time of only 82 minutes, there are others showcased that I would have much rather spent time with.

What shines here are the performances. Sami and Van Beek both have great comedic timing and I would love to see them as a recurring duo in future projects. James Rolleston’s “Jordan” is very funny as the lovable doofus and Celia Pacquola’s “Anna” is one of the most hilarious manic-depressives in film history. And then there’s Ana Scotney as “Sepa”, Jordan’s jaded ex… Please give her a TV show. I’m actually not sure if I want to watch anything that she is not in. Her on screen personality is as magnetic as her cornrows. And if there is any point in the film that you begin to worry about her absence from the other choreographed dance numbers, just be patient. I had to look up her previous work and so far, it’s pretty thin. Apparently, she plays a “she-wolf” in an episode of the Waititi created, Wellington Paranormal, a show that looks to be a cross between Reno 911 and The X-Files. So, I’ll be looking that up on Youtube in a few minutes.

What this film may lack in tightness and plot, it makes up for in promise. I love the already established Kiwi troupe centered around Waititi and Jermaine Clement and if this is how the new crop is ushered in, I’m all for it. I would love to see more from these ladies.

Emery’s Rating
3.75 out of 5 Stars

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