The Break Up

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Considering the title and the stars, this could hardly be more perfect gossip magazine material. Following her very public divorce from Brad Pitt, this is one of ex-Friends star Jennifer Aniston’s first big screen outings – her break up followed by The Break Up. To add to the delight of those who thrive on celebrity tittle-tattle and rumour, it was while making this movie that Aniston started dating her co-star, Vince Vaughn – who just happens to be one of her ex-husband’s friends.

Of course, what cinemagoers really want to know is not about Aniston’s love life, but whether her latest romantic comedy is any good. Both her and co-star Vaughn have proved themselves highly variable performers. When they are good, they have both displayed expert comic timing and a knack for slapstick that few can master. When not on form, however, both can be cloyingly tedious, predictable – and even unlikeable.

Here, both have their work cut out as a co-habiting couple who split up, but decide to carry on living together until the other gets so fed up they finally admit defeat and move out. If it sounds strangely reminiscent of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, where Kate Hudson did her best to make Matthew McConaughey end their relationship, that’s because it pretty much is. Only in that film, at least one half of the couple was trying to keep the relationship alive, even if only for a bet – here both parties are trying to force the other out. With both trying every unpleasant trick in the book to make the other sling their hook, maintaining audience sympathy is a hard act to pull off.

With the usual entirely predictable plot of the romantic comedy, in the best tradition of When Harry Met Sally, the seeming inevitability of the two leads who hate each other ending up together – or in this case back together – means that the jokes and the characters are key. The only real problem is that we’ve already seen these two as a couple at the start of the movie, and it’s hard not to agree that perhaps they were better off separating.

This is by no means to say that this is a bad film – predictability does, after all, go with the genre – but it’s a shame that the two leads never really seem to have much chemistry. Especially, to slip into gossip column mode, as they are apparently a couple off-screen as well as on.

Nonetheless, with some great one-liners – especially for Vaughn – and an insanely talented supporting cast made up of a range of criminally under-acknowledged actors including Joey Lauren Adams, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Favreau, even the worst romantic comedy can be saved. This is a film that both sexes can relate to and enjoy, albeit for different reasons – the boys ogling Aniston and sympathising with Vaughn, the girls largely just sympathising with Aniston. In that, it is a welcome rarity in a genre normally deemed the preserve of the fairer sex.