Film Review: "The Breaker Upperers" is a disappointingly broken comedy
The Breaker Upperers is a dorky 82-minute comedy that stretches a thin premise way beyond its tearing point. I’m tempted to shrug and leave it at that. But two things really stuck out to me: One, I didn’t laugh. Not one time. And two, a dream sequence of the titular breaker-upperers imagining themselves in a Celine Dion music video lasts for roughly forever.
Oy, save us all from the Celine Dion scene. It’s baffling. Baffling because it’s thickly layered with syrupy earnestness, where the rest of the film is mean and proudly insincere. Most of all, it's the most obviously ridiculous scene and yet the most purposefully humourless. Just a chaotic collision of damned odd intentions. It’s the only memorable part of The Breaker Upperers, for all the wrong reasons.
Anyway, the story, is that two friends Jen and Mel (Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek, who also co-wrote and co-directed) run an unusual business. They break up couples for cash. There’s only one rule they abide by: Don’t get attached. Can you guess what happens? Naturally, complications ensue, and their friendship and business are put to the test. Scene after scene of actors painfully mumble their way to a punchline, and it goes on and on until a dance-off climax ripped straight from some early-2000s teen comedy finally, mercifully, ends the movie.
For some – well, for many, judging by the generous reactions The Breaker Upperers has garnered - the improvisational comedy will prove charming and funny and delightful. Whereas most mainstream American comedies are usually brash and in your face, Kiwi comedies usually favour gentle absurdity and self-deprecation. Amid the dead air and amateurish production, I could vaguely sense where The Breaker Upperers humour was coming from, and it’s certainly a refreshing perspective. You want to like it because it's so desperate to please and to make you laugh.
Speaking strictly for myself though, these improvisational comedy scenes often resulted in that sick second-hand embarrassment feeling you get when you watch someone you want to like succumb to stage fright. If the graphic horror film Hereditary was the most tense I’ve felt in a cinema this year, then this light and frivolous comedy ranks a close second.