Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Break-Up

As many a reviewer has noted, this is not a romantic comedy. Get past the trailers and the commercials and the hype about Vince and Jenn's (Jince? Vincifer?) possible couple status, listen to the arguments, see if you don't recall having the exact same one at least once in your life, and realize that this could be the most genuine relationship movie to come along in years.

We see them meet at a Cubs game when Vince notices Jennifer sitting several seats down on his row and decides to pick her up, despite the fact that she's already on a date. He's charming and funny, and it obviously works on her because we procede to a series of photos showing the couple in happier moments during their relationship before resuming the action on the night of a dinner party and the eventual break-up. It's jarring to move from a scene of outright hilarity (Jenn's brother leads the table in an a capella rendering of Yes's "Owner of Lonely Heart," much to the discomfort of Vince) to the first intense argument of the picture and Jenn's deciding she's had enough and ending things, but it's that sudden swing in momentum that makes this picture authentic to me. Who hasn't had a perfectly lovely evening, only to wind up screaming and slamming doors over a slight, perceived or otherwise? Who hasn't felt that they aren't appreciated, but hasn't had the guts to come out and say it? What woman hasn't dropped subtle hints left and right to a clueless man? What clueless man hasn't exclaimed that he isn't a mind reader and if you really wanted him to do more why didn't you just out and out say so?

The two biggest criticisms that I've noticed are that the couple in question are just too different to really be believable as a couple in the first place and that Vaughn and Anniston have no on screen chemistry. I have to disagree. Vaughn's best friend (played perfectly by Jon Favreau) tells him point blank that he's a fun guy, everyone loves him, everyone has a blast with him, but when it comes down to it he's a selfish guy that won't put anyone ahead of himself, not even the woman he loves, and it's easy to see how that fun loving guy could win over someone like Anniston, someone that is willing to put him first for so long because no matter what they're doing she's having a ball even if it isn't what she wanted to do. Even in the midst of the break up, as she brings another guy home to make him jealous and it winds up backfiring as the two bond over a game of Madden, we see her sitting on the other couch and smiling as Vaughn cracks jokes with her date. She still remembers what she loves about him and why she was with him in the first place, and again decides the relationship is worth one more try at saving. Naturally, Vaughn has called his brother for a night of debauchery in retaliation and Aniston comes home to find a drunken Vaughn watching another woman dance in her underwear in their living room. Neither one seems capable of swallowing thier pride and making the right decision to just come out and acknowledge that they still love each other and still want to make it work, but instead keep driving each other away: Aniston thinks that breaking up with Vaughn is going to make him miserable and realize that if he doesn't change he'll lose her while Vaughn feels like he's already lost her forever and is determined to make her pay. If either one could be honest with the other instead of playing tricks and games it would have been a whole different picture. There's a scene near the end where Vaughn makes a valiant and earnest attempt at change after seeing Anniston in tears over another of his slights, but it doesn't turn out as he or the audience expects, and that, to me, is where the movie is the most painfully honest. They've spent enough time fighting for Aniston to realize that Vaughn isn't going to be the guy she needs him to be and it finally drives them apart, because when it comes down to it you have to love someone for who they are, not who you think they can and should be, and she finally sees who he is completely and that he isn't someone she can love. If there is a criticism I can really level, it's that the movie should have ended right here. As it stands though, the ending feels tacked on, as if a studio exec said "it needs to at least have a hopeful ending, if not a happy one."

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