What do you do when you’ve been in a high-profile relationship with Brad Pitt, only for it all to go spectacularly tits up? Jennifer Aniston went out and made a romcom about the perfect relationship and how it all went wrong. That might seem more than mere coincidence but anyone looking for coded digs at Brangelina from one half of Jett, Brenifer, or whatever the composite name for Brad and Jen was (have I just forgotten, or was the relationship doomed thanks to lack of a trash-mag moniker?) is going to have to get out the electron microscope. Yes, this is a romcom starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn as a couple who argue and split up. And yes, it was made as Aniston was still tasting the dust kicked up as Brad moved on to pastures Jolie. But in all other respects it’s your average terrible romcom, with Jen and Vince as the couple who split, as I say… so, a romcom in reverse, in fact, with each party trying their damnedest to get the other to leave their lovely shared apartment with a low-low rent – he invites boozy mates and chesty girls over for strip poker; she co-opts her nerdy brother and chums to use the place to rehearse their barbershop routine. And so it goes on, an escalating war of attrition, the uptown girl and the downtown guy, neither of them particularly likeable. Looked at with your head on one side, with your eyes half closed and most of your brain removed, this has something of the basic idea of François Ozon’s relationship-in-reverse drama 5X2 from two years earlier. But whereas Ozon’s film was a bleak analysis showing us the seeds of relationship meltdown even when the couple was at its most head-spinningly in love, with The Break-Up we get a few good jokes, a lot of bickering, the famous Aniston naked scene (a “here’s what your missing” flounce through the apartment) and not much more. Actually, that’s not fair. The side characters are where the real comedic action is in this film – Judy Davis as Jen’s bitch boss, John Michael Higgins as her brother – his turn doing an a cappella version of the Yes song Owner of a Lonely Heart at a dinner party providing the film’s standout laugh. But once you start admiring the frame rather than the picture, you know something’s gone wrong.
© Steve Morrissey 2006