The Break-Up is being marketed as a bubbly romantic comedy—as a date movie, sure, but one masquerading as an anti-date movie. From the film's ads, one gets the sense that—despite its title, and despite its stars' bickering—The Break-Up is made for those on dates, or those who want to be. But that's sneaky and kind of mean—turns out that The Break-Up isn't that bubbly, nor is it that romantic.
That isn't to say it's a lousy movie, because another thing that the ads will trick you about is the film's quality. Sure, The Break-Up is being sold as another crappy, predictable romantic comedy—when really, it's a thoughtful, surprisingly good dramedy.
Vince Vaughn plays the boorish yet charming Gary, a Chicago tour guide who's somehow netted Brooke (Jennifer Aniston), a sexy art dealer who likes dinner parties and the ballet. But whenever Brooke needs anything, Gary just kicks back with Bud Light and Grand Theft Auto; whenever Gary tries to relax, Brooke starts nagging like a harpy. So the two split, then spend the rest of the film trying to hide how sad they are by making the other jealous and angry.
Aside from Vaughn and Aniston's solid performances, what makes The Break-Up work is Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender's script. At first, it's content with sitcom-y situations and shorthand clichés—there's the easygoing, jovial Vaughan for the guys, the charming, unappreciated Aniston for the girls. But as the film weeds out its slapstick-y elements, Gary and Brooke's emotional games begin to feel less jokey and more believable—making the film's humor hit harder, and making one care about whether or not the two reconcile.
At its worst, The Break-Up feels like its ads. But during its far more plentiful better parts, it works as an affecting dark comedy, one that riffs on immaturity and heartbreak, inspiring some laughs and knowing nods along the way. Ultimately, The Break-Up isn't a film for anyone on a date—it's a film for anyone who's ever broken up. Which, it turns out, makes a pretty big difference.