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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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.