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The Breaker Upperers [2018]: Mel and Jen are the Breaker Upperers who do the dirty work for those of us who can’t dump their ex over text. Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek write, direct and star in the slacker comedy about the trials, tribulations, and hijinks of two hopelessly lonely women who run a break-up on demand agency.

Make it Quick and Painless: The way we wish every break up was. Hot off of the heels of the Australian release of the What We Do in the Shadows spinoff series Wellington Paranormal - with episodes directed by van Beek- this Taika Waititi produced vehicle would have been better off a short-form TV series than a feature film. There are moments of subtlety where the film shows promise, usually in the form of unforced dialogue interwoven into a speedy back and forth between the protagonists. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, with the between consisting of dance montages and drawn out “comedic” bits which place emphasis on references extremely specific to 2010’s culture (i.e. Tinder hook-ups, the BeyHive, Kristen Stewart as a closeted gay icon). In doing so, the film not only dates itself but always leaves some sector of the audience in the dark. Not only did its comedic pacing falter, but so too did the plot of the film with its almost non-existent final act. By the end of this film, audiences may actually find themselves questioning whether they actually witnessed any change occur throughout the film, did we just witness these characters grow together or just a sequence of sometimes comedic events shot and soundtracked in a relatively ordinary way?

Character is Key: We open with a montage of Mel and Jen doing their job - playing a series of different characters conjured in order to break up with people in uncomfortable but interesting ways; I left this film wanting more of that. Van Beek has a certain awkward flair reminiscent of the lanky and uncomfortable body humor of Kristen Wiig. Sami brings the carefree Kiwi charm that we come to expect from a comedy of this sort, although, just under halfway into this 120-minute flick these characters have become extremely unlikable. Oftentimes, the women sacrifice the feelings of the people around them for reasons completely devoid of character motivation and sorely for the purpose of executing a flat-landing joke. In a film where the aim is to generate humor, these people need to make human decisions which result in inhumanly hilarious outcomes, there were slivers of hope that had me laughing in my seat, but when the comedy dictates character motivation we’re left within an awkward middle-ground in which characters make frustrating decisions for minuscule laughs.

Not lacking in dry New Zealand wit, The Breaker Upperers is satisfactory for Sunday afternoon viewing. However, much like their clientele, Madelaine Sami and Jackie van Beek have structured a film which lacks the confidence and certainty to cross the high bar set by the Waititian films with which they share the stage.

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The Breaker Upperers
2.5Overall Score
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