The Breaker Upperers, 2018.
Directed by Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek.
Starring Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, and Ana Scotney.
Two women cynical in love, set up an agency to break couples up as a way to avoid letting go and moving on with their lives.
Breaking up with someone is hard. There’s a reason almost every sitcom has an episode in which one of the main characters thinks of an elaborate plan to have his or her partner to break up with them instead. No one wants to go through the process of breaking someone’s heart and witness them get emotional, or so angry they’ll beat your ass. This leads to an untapped market that Jen and Mel plan to fill with their small-time business “The Breaker Upperers” where they pretend to be your pregnant mistress, or the cops coming to arrest you so you never have to see your partner again!
I am not a big rom-com fan. I admire the actors that make the characters come to life and who manage to make audiences fall in love with a couple destined to break up by the second act – I enjoy the occasional romantic comedy when they emphasize the comedy, or the characters are more than just attractive people. The Breaker Upperers definitely isn’t a Judd Apatow or Paul Feig movie, largely because of writer/directors Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, who also star as Mel and Jen, respectively. This is a New Zealand comedy through and through. A heartwarming yet raunchy comedy, with a story that’s over-the-top comedy yet believable – there’s an entire fantasy sequence set to Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” in a party bus, all while still being grounded in the friendship at the center of the film.
A big part of the international appeal of this movie (and part of the reason I checked it out during SXSW, before falling for the hilarious charm of its stars) is that it’s executive produced by Taika Waititi. You may even recognize Madeleine and Jackie from their roles – both big and small – in other films in the Taika Waititi Cinematic Universe, as all three of them appeared in Boy, Eagle vs Shark, and What We Do in the Shadows. There’s even a sub-plot about inhumanly hot 18-year-old Jordon, played by James Rolleston, who has fully mastered the art of Waititi-an mannerisms since his time playing the boy from Boy. Jordon starts falling for Mel after hiring her and Jen to break him and his badass girlfriend who can’t seem to understand his emoji codes, leading to multiple jokes about having sex with really young people (but as the film keeps reminding you, still legal!).
Sami and van Beek have made a film full of humour and heart. The two comedians have fantastic chemistry that will remind you of fellow kiwis Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, while fooling you into thinking they improvised everything on the spot, while the cinematography will not really convince you otherwise – as it follows Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s quasi-mockumentary visual style. The characters are fully fleshed and developed, and both leads easily sell the bitterness and cynicism of their respective characters, while also being lovable enough that you will want to go sing karaoke on a party bus with them.
The Breaker Upperers is filled with hysterically funny jokes, infectious energy and an honest story about friendship being the most important relationship. Prepare yourself for some great cameos (every New Zealander is in this movie). This marks a new addition to the New Zealand invasion of comedy. And I, for one, welcome our new kiwi overlords.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Rafael Motamayor is a journalist and movie geek based in Norway. You can follow him on Twitter.