The Break-Up (2006)
December 18, 2016 7:50 PM - Subscribe

A couple get into an argument that's ostensibly over dinner party preparations, the argument escalates into a break-up, and things only get worse from there.

When Gary and Brooke throw a dinner party for their combined families, Brooke becomes incensed over the fact that while she spent hours cleaning the apartment and cooking the dinner, Gary's sole contribution was bringing home three lemons when she'd asked him to buy twelve. When he even has to be argued into helping with the dishes after the party, she announces that she's done and their relationship is over. Brooke plays Alanis Morissette and throws Gary's clothes out of their formerly shared bedroom, he refuses to let her use the living room at all, she lets her brother's glee club practice in the bedroom, Gary gets the pool table Brooke previously vetoed, Brooke walks around the apartment naked and goes out on a date or two, and Gary invites his friends and some strippers for a poker and dance party. Gary finally has a moment of enlightenment and realizes why Brooke was so frustrated with him, but it's too late for him to save the relationship. In the end the condo they bought together is sold and they move out and move on, and even come to the point where they can be friendly again.

Cast stars Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan as the warring couple, and their friends and family include Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Bateman, Ann-Margaret, Justin Long, Judy Davis, and Vincent D'Onofrio.
posted by orange swan (9 comments total)
I saw this movie some years ago but after the emotional labour thread happened in July 2015, I started thinking of it as a movie that's really all about emotional labour, and I re-watched it the other night and found out it was. Both Brooke and Gary would have benefited greatly from reading that thread, because Brooke is struggling to express why she's so fed up with Gary's behaviour and Gary hasn't a clue, even though he's hearing similar complaints from other people in his life.

It's not a great movie but I did think it nailed the experience of someone trying to articulate a problem without having the vocabulary or the terms to do so.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 PM on December 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I saw this when it came out. I thought it was OK, but I really respected that it had the courage to let the relationship end rather than forcing the characters back together for some bullshit happy ending. I remember thinking it was pretty funny in spots.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:54 PM on December 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

The thing I remember laughing about most is how transparently eager their realtor friend is for them to break up.
posted by fleacircus at 11:28 PM on December 18, 2016

I saw this for the first time years after it came out, and I was really surprised at how good their dinner party fight was. I was also going through a break-up at the time, and it felt like the same fights we were having (which is to say fights that are not about "lemons" at all).
posted by gladly at 6:08 AM on December 19, 2016

I was impressed with the ending too, under_petticoat_rule. I thought all the way through the movie that they were sure to get back together, not because it was the right choice for them, but because that's how Hollywood movies work. But no, they really do break up and they move on. I hesitated to use the tag "romance" for this thread because this movie is very much not in the usual romantic comedy mold, but at the same time it is a romantic comedy because it's a comedy about the end of a romance.

Another unspoken thing that speaks volumes: the way the apartment promptly became a dump after the break up because Brooke stopped tidying and cleaning up after Gary. She was clearly doing the lion's share of the housekeeping.

Jason Bateman was great as the realtor friend. I wish he'd had more screen time. He's a totally underrated actor who is only now, ten years later, starting to get the roles he deserves.

I'd forgotten about the glee club brother kicking Gary's ass because he tried to interrupt the rehearsal. Hilarious.
posted by orange swan at 8:55 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's an interesting film in that it helps confirm my theory that Vince Vaughn is both an utter dick and is totally aware and mortified by the fact. It's a well he keeps going back to again and again, starting in the scene in Swingers in which he humiliates himself flirting with a woman who is actually playing with her child, continuing with his self-excoriating role Made, his transparent awfulness in Old School, and finding a sort of peace with itself in The Wedding Crashers, where he ages out of it and into something resembling a healthy relationship.

Hollywood has repeatedly tried to make him into a chummy, lazily charming leading man like the early Bill Murray, but when Vaughn has had a hand in his films (as with this, where Vaughn conceived the original story), he repeatedly tells stories of privileged men who quickly flip to overbearing, bullying, hostile behavior the moment they don't get their way, in an astonishingly self-mocking way. I can't think of an actor who has simultaneously embodied male fragility and mocked it like Vaughn.

It doesn't make this a great movie, but it is a more complicated one than it gets credit for.
posted by maxsparber at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah I didn't love this, purely because Vaughn's character was such an asshole boy child, and it's a dynamic I see in real life too much and I hate it!
posted by smoke at 3:54 PM on December 20, 2016

maxsparber, if you haven't seen Clay Pigeons, you should, his role in it is precisely what you are talking about WRT Vince Vaughn, only one (or several) steps further, towards the logical extreme of that kind of person.

I actually liked The Break Up much more than I thought I would, it eschewed the Hollywood ending, the relationships and conversations seemed to be more realistic and about the realistic things than most Hollywood rom-com type films, and Jennifer Aniston is a brilliant comic actress.
posted by biscotti at 5:52 AM on December 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to pop back in here five years [!] later and comment on something that's occurred to me since this thread was posted.

When Gary and Brooke are talking about splitting the proceeds from the sale of the condo, Gary claims he should get more than 50% because he did the renovations. Brooke says that they did it together, and that she was "the designer". Gary scoffs at this as though it's a nonsensical title and she did nothing while he did all the work. Brooke later says something like, "We did it together. How can he not remember that?"

I think what Brooke likely means by saying she was the designer was that she did the planning, the research, and the running around doing the comparison shopping, getting samples, and ultimately buying the supplies they needed for the renovations. This is a process just as time-consuming, just as complex, and just as important to the ultimate results as the actual process of doing the renovations, and so yes, if she did all of that while Gary did things like painting and tiling and installing fixtures, she did half of the work.

It's another indication of how much Gary takes Brooke and everything she does for granted, and how invisible and devalued her work is to him. To him, installing tile is work that counts (even if, as Brooke mentions, he doesn't do it well), while planning, research, and shopping isn't real work.
posted by orange swan at 12:04 PM on December 2, 2021

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