Reevaluating “The Break-Up”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Universal Pictures, 2006]

The Break-Up

Directed by Peyton Reed

In retrospect the marketing for “The Break-Up,” the “romantic” “comedy” starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, was at best an act of desperation and at worst an outright deception. Commercials, trailers and posters positioned the film as a charmingly playful battle of the sexes; these images, while present in the film, were anomalies in an otherwise dark and surprisingly serious look at a rocky relationship. They (deviously and, yes, ingeniously) sold a picture that didn’t exist; no wonder many audiences were disappointed by the end result. “The Break-Up” is, in fact, a mature, honest story of a couple’s turbulent end. In other words, everything a real romantic comedy is not.

Vaughn and Aniston meet at Wrigley Field. Vaughn inhabits the charmingly overbearing persona he’s honed in “Swingers” and last year’s “Wedding Crashers”; Aniston utilizes her sheepish mode, previously deployed in “Office Space,” “Bruce Almighty,” and others. Standard romantic comedies end immediately after the couples get together, because it’s generally agreed-upon that it’s all downhill from there (or, at the very least, right boring). “The Break-Up” takes the opposite tact, beginning at the beginning, but only momentarily; after an opening credits montage of candid, happy snapshots, director Peyton Reed jumps right to the juicy stuff, the point when practical neat freak Brooke and goofy slob Gary realize they aren’t awfully compatible. Each has an equal stake in their gorgeous Chicago condo, both refuse to leave. Their break-up is peppered lightly with the moments from the trailer that made it seem like a fun romp — Brooke’s flamboyant (but not gay) brother Richard (a note-perfect John Michael Higgins), her attempt to drive Gary mad with lust with a “Telly Savalas” wax job. But the bulk of the film is two unhappy people venting their frustration on one another.

Granted, “The Break-Up” isn’t Cassavetes, but it’s not that far off, and even offering that comparison in the context of a big budget Hollywood comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston is remarkable in and of itself. At times you wish Reed and Vaughn (who also serves as a co-producer and co-writer) were willing to push it farther, to be more conceptual. Most of the film is set in the couple’s condo, but the movie might have been even better if the whole thing was set there, if their angst and bitterness was completely inescapable. Still, only the test audience-approved ending feels like a Hollywood copout.

The movie is particularly a revelation for Vaughn who after “Wedding Crashers” could have easily milked his persona for the next five years. Gary starts off quite close to “Crashers”‘ Jeremy, his slothy charm working overtime. But the process of breaking-up with Brooke reveals Vaughn’s persona’s shallowness, his inability to connect with other human beings. Jon Favreau, who’s played Vaughn’s foil in two previous films, gets to act as his bartending psychiatrist, diagnosing the problems in Gary and Jeremy and all the rest that we were too blinded by charisma to see.

By the time I saw “The Break-Up,” the deceitful advertising had been counteracted by friends who’d seen the picture, been surprised by it, but impressed all the same. Word-of-mouth, on the other hand, could have sold this picture just as easily as hollow promises. “The Break-Up” grossed more than $100 million. Imagine what the film might have made if Hollywood had trusted the quality of the film, and the intelligence of the audience. The DVD includes commentary by Vaughn and Aniston, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, outtakes, improv with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, and a tour of Chicago.

“The Break-Up” is available on DVD October 17th.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.