The Broken Hearts Gallery, 2020.
Directed by Natalie Krinsky.
Starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Arturo Castro, Suki Waterhouse and Bernadette Peters.
A heartbroken young woman opens up a gallery which allows people to part with mementos of past relationships in order to exorcise the pain of the break-up.
The cutesy New York City romcom is a genre all of itself, from You’ve Got Mail to the most untouchable of classic romcoms: When Harry Met Sally. Debut filmmaker Natalie Krinsky, who has previously written episodes of Gossip Girl, is the latest to enter the world of NYC romance with the likeable-but-twee The Broken Hearts Gallery.
Comic force of nature Geraldine Viswanathan, of Blockers fame, plays Lucy, whom we meet in flashback dealing badly with the aftermath of a break-up. Eight years later, in the present day, she’s in a happy relationship with fancy gallery co-worker Max (Pitch Perfect‘s Utkarsh Ambudkar), but that is scuppered when she has a none-more-romcom meltdown at a work event. She hops into a car she believes to be a Lyft and talks the ear off of Nick (Dacre Montgomery) – a down-on-his-luck bloke who’s struggling financially as he attempts to build a hotel. Anyone who has ever seen a romcom before will be able to fill in the rest of that plot summary.
Krinsky is not reinventing any wheels here and The Broken Hearts Gallery suffers from how tightly it clings to the tropes of the genre. Every glimpse of potential subversion – particularly in the third act – causes the movie to turn tail and run, screaming, in the other direction as quickly as possible. Every trope is present and correct, from calamitous misunderstandings to quirky impromptu dates, with even Lucy’s best friends cut from the cloth of the genre’s past. Booksmart breakout Molly Gordon is terrific as the darkly funny Amanda – her favourite things are murder and karaoke – while Hamilton‘s Phillipa Soo is sorely underused as a gay woman who is seen as a sort of break-up assassin.
Thankfully, despite its generic trappings, The Broken Hearts Gallery gets by on the wit of its script and the charm of its performers. Viswanathan throws herself at the film with whirlwind energy that’s entirely in keeping with a character who uses a sunny, optimistic facade to conceal the sadness she evidently feels at her numerous romantic misadventures. She’s entirely believable as a woman who would try to expand her performative optimism to others by allowing post-relationship hoarders to pass on their break-up relics to her gallery within Nick’s hotel, which begins to pick up steam on social media.
Viswanathan’s leading turn is a performance of impressive nuance that threatens to break free of the movie’s tight romcom formula, only to be dragged back in with alarming regularity by the necessity of the narrative. Dacre Montgomery, most notably seen as the Red Ranger in the most recent Power Rangers reboot, is also strangled by the restrictions of the genre to the extent that he’s seldom able to escape from the “ludicrously handsome but emotionally unavailable bloke” archetype. Only in a handful of scenes – including some delightfully excruciating karaoke – is their relationship able to shine through as something human and idiosyncratic.
There’s a permanent battle raging at the heart of The Broken Hearts Gallery between the modern, sex-positive genre twist it arguably should have been and the well-worn romcom conventions from which it can’t seem to ever break free. The wondrous energy and charisma of Geraldine Viswanathan, and the script’s ample supply of pithy one-liners, pushes this into more enjoyable territory, but the deeply unsurprising story leaves a lot to be desired.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.