Everyone’s got their catchy little columns…this is mine. A Chance to Dance is a little series I’m going to try and roll out in which each column will take a look at a movie that I feel has maybe been misperceived, forgotten, underrated, etc. If it doesn’t make you want to see the movie again, hopefully it will at least make you think a little bit about your own perceptions. Just don’t punch me in the face if my opinion doesn’t exactly mirror yours.
The Movie: 2006’s The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Justin Long, and many others
The Expectations: When the first trailer premiered in front of films in the spring, everyone was expecting the comedy smash hit of the summer. There was a funny little bit about Vince Vaughn getting the crap beat out of him with a bit of karate and trying to explain it to Jennifer Aniston. It was funny. Everyone seemed to agree on that. And thus, expectations for a great romantic-comedy were born.
I have to admit, I would never have appreciate this film were it not for some of the reviews I read beforehand. Some people managed to figure out what was wrong with this little film; they seemed to have some insight on why not everyone was going to love it. The answer? This is one weird animal of a film. The marketing wrongly portrayed it as a romantic-comedy romp full of hilarious jokes and sweeping romantic gestures. But what did people get through most of the film? Fighting. And lots of it.
But somehow, when I finally popped this flick in last summer, it all made sense to me. I knew this was a relationship movie and one in which the writers and actors were going for realism as much as they could in a studio picture. And for someone who had just come out of a brief relationship, these arguments were all too real. But I wasn’t unnerved by it. If anything, I found some comfort in the fact that a studio had managed to make a movie that understood how relationships look, sound, and feel like – while still managing to be entertaining. I was blown away by how far the cast was willing to go with each emotion, showing honesty when most films would go for contrivance and schmaltz.
And I LOVE the fact this film doesn’t tie everything up in a perfect bow. Instead of having Vaughn and Aniston’s characters come back together in the end and get married and all that crazy stuff we’re used to, they briefly catch up and then go their own ways. This reminds me of the way the relationship shook out in Annie Hall. These movies both had endings that showed us it was okay to be apart from someone and still really appreciate them as a friend.
Of course, many of my friends whom I talked to hated the ending. They described the entire movie as depressing. And worst of all – they said it wasn’t even funny. But let me clarify something here: the movie isn’t trying to be funny all the time. When the movie does try to be funny, such as with the dinner and the Tone Rangers, the results are hilarious. But this is not meant to be a comedy. It’s meant to be Life – or at least as close to it as a studio picture will allow. That people would find this movie depressing is an interesting point to realize; does it mean that we expect too much from our own relationships, or are we just not able to deal with chaos as well as we hoped to?
This is also the film that made me fall in love with director Peyton Reed. I had already been impressed with some of his work in Down with Love, but here he takes things to another level. Not only does he create a perfect tone for the film, but he gives the camera grace. There are many shots that are just effortlessly smooth and yet never manage to distract you from the scene at hand. I could go on and on about this guy, but I will say that he’s the main reason I’m actually looking forward to a Jim Carrey film again. I cannot wait to see what magic he conjures with Yes Man.
Yes, The Break-Up did manage to make a healthy amount of money at the box-office, but much (if not all) of that was fueled by the Vaughn-Aniston rumors that broke open before and during the film’s release. That this film is so underrated is a more than a little sad to me. I hope people can eventually come to see it as the weird little animal it is and understand what it was maybe really going for. This is a film with an incredible amount of heart and honesty – and if you’re not careful, you might learn a thing or two.