Surpisingly poignant and thought-provoking, ‘The Break-Up’ is a terrifically unconventional romantic comedy.

Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston in ‘The Break-Up’

The Break-Up stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston as a Chicago couple who buy a condo together and then after their relationship breaks up, neither one wants to move out. An odd situation to say the least, and one that is ripe with comic potential, particularly when you have two actors who are so adept in the romantic comedy genre. After all, didn’t we just see Vaughn in The Wedding Crashers, one of the funniest R-rated romantic comedies in ages, while Aniston was the female lead in Along Came Polly and Bruce Almighty, two successful outings in the genre.

The difference the brain trust: director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down With Love) screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, and Vaughn himself, a first-time producer, none of whom consulted the “unwritten” manual for a successful romantic comedy. They went their own way and that was a great decision. One of the basic rules for this type of film is that you normally need to show the couple actually falling in love, even if they have nothing in common. And if ever a couple had nothing in common except love, it is Gary Grabowski (Vaughn) and Brooke Meyers (Aniston).

He is a die-hard Cubs fan, partners with his brothers in a tour bus operation in which he is the “talent”, the operator of the tour bus who describes the various highlights of Chicago to passengers. He is also a perennial slob, who thinks that their condo would be better if it had a pool table rather than the furniture it is so wonderfully decorated with thanks, to Brooke’s excellent taste. After all, she works in a very important art gallery, loves to keep things neat, orderly and, of course, organized. But we don’t see them falling in love or get a whole lot of romance between them. He sees her, he wants to meet her, even though she’s with someone else at the time. He then finds a way to hit on her (a clever way at that) and soon, she’s with him.

Their break up is precipitated when they have families over for dinner and Gary can’t be bothered to aid at all in the preparation for what Brooke considers a very important evening. He does manage to insert the ever-tiring issue of the pool table into the dinner discussion, further irritating his significant other. The final straw comes after everyone else leaves and he doesn’t want to help with the clean-up efforts.

Soon, they are officially “apart”, with Gary sleeping on the pull-out sofa and playing pool on the new pool table, while Brooke is letting others use her private space in the bedroom for things that she knows will annoy Gary. This is a battle that will only escalate until finally the realtor that sold them the condo is present during a games evening where all of their friends witness how the level of animosity has grown. After everyone else has left, he pulls the two of them aside and tells them that they need to wake up and realize that neither of them can afford to live there alone. They can’t keep going the way they are going and that they should do the smart thing and sell, then just go on with their lives. Of course, this is not what Brooke ever wanted, she wanted to change Gary and get him to understand how hard she worked to make their life together good and comfortable, but apparently that just wasn’t going to happen. Or would it?

The lead actors are quite good in their roles, a supporting cast that includes Jon Favreau, Judy Davis, Joey Lauren Adams and Vincent D’ Onofrio are excellent. Chicago makes a nice backdrop and a welcome change from the usual scenery of either Los Angeles or New York for this type of movie (one reason for enjoying “Fever Pitch” was its Boston location). It is fun to see.

Now is the point where I warn you to stop reading if you don’t want to see any spoiler type stuff. This isn’t the typical romantic comedy where the hero ends up getting the girl back in the end and that’s a choice that I not only respected, I approved of it. Why must films involving romance have an ending where a couple gets or stays united, when we live in a society with a divorce rate above 50%? Brooke has given all she had to give and by the time Gary woke up and smelled the coffee and realized what he was about to lose, it made sense that she might have nothing left to give and no feelings left for him at that moment. That scene may be the best in the film, it is one of Aniston’s best moments on screen that I’ve seen.

Go and enjoy The Break Up. It is a definite date film and you may learn not to take that date for granted as a result.

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