The Break-up

Though positioned as a wild, witty comedy of real estate and romance on the rocks, Peyton Reed's modern-day gloss on the viciously funny WAR OF THE ROSES (1989) is done in by its tone, which vacillates between producer-star Vince Vaughn's unrepentant — and frequently hilarious — loutishness, and sour "SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE for Dummies" malaise....read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Though positioned as a wild, witty comedy of real estate and romance on the rocks, Peyton Reed's modern-day gloss on the viciously funny WAR OF THE ROSES (1989) is done in by its tone, which vacillates between producer-star Vince Vaughn's unrepentant — and frequently hilarious — loutishness, and sour "SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE for Dummies" malaise. Wealthy control freak Brooke (Jennifer Aniston), who works at the pretentious Marilyn Dean art gallery, and lumpen tour guide Gary (Vaughn) "meet cute" at a Chicago Cubs game, where he badgers her to dump her date for him. A snapshot montage charts the progress of their relationship, which eventually finds them in a spacious, well-appointed condo where Brooke is frantically putting the finishing touches on a sure-to-be-awkward family dinner. Gary saunters in and plops himself down on the sofa to play Grand Theft Auto — rather than shower, set the table or go back out for the lemons he forgot to pick up on the way home (OK, he got three, but she asked for a dozen) — setting the stage for the ugly fight that inevitably erupts over dirty dishes. Brooke delivers an ill-considered ultimatum, their respective friends and confidants — including Gary's brothers (Vincent D'Onofrio, Cole Hauser), best buds Riggelman (Jason Bateman), the Realtor who found them the apartment, and bartender Johnny O (Jon Favreau), as well as Brooke's married pal, Addie (Joey Lauren Adams), diva-like boss (Judy Davis) and loopy gay coworker (Justin Long) — leap in with gasoline-on-the-flames advice, and soon the bitterly miserable couple has retreated to separate ends of their jointly owned apartment to wage emotional war. Brooke lets her brother (John Michael Higgins) and his annoying a capella vocal group, the Tone Rangers, practice in her bedroom and tries to make Gary jealous by going on dates, while Gary redoes his part of the apartment in basic frat house and organizes coed strip-poker parties. The trouble isn't that screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender aren't perceptive: Brooke and Gary articulate their discontent with considerable precision and occasional verve. It's that they haven't figured out a way to make emotional torment funny, which is the tall order inherent in "anti-romantic comedy." Though Aniston and Vaughn began dating on set, they strike no visible on-screen sparks and can't begin to make their characters — a strident whiner and a self-centered boor — appealing. Though painfully limited, their expressions — spunkily determined/stricken for her and stubbornly determined/poleaxed for him — say it all.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Though positioned as a wild, witty comedy of real estate and romance on the rocks, Peyton Reed's modern-day gloss on the viciously funny WAR OF THE ROSES (1989) is done in by its tone, which vacillates between producer-star Vince Vaughn's unrepentant —… (more)

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