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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.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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