The Broken Hearts Gallery, 2020.
Written and Directed by Natalie Krinsky.
Starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Nikki Duval, Suki Waterhouse, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Sheila McCarthy, Nathan Dales, Bernadette Peters, Ego Nwodim, Megan Ferguson, Tattiawna Jones, and Arturo Castro.
After a break up, a young woman decides to start a gallery where people can leave trinkets from past relationships.
The concept of The Broken Hearts Gallery is certainly an intriguing one, mostly because it’s at odds with common advice when it comes to breakups. Generally, people are encouraged to get rid of things that remind them of past significant others (physical objects and social media related memories), whereas the lead to writer/director Natalie Krinsky’s (her first time ever behind the camera and first time writing a film, with her only previous credits being for television) is Lucy (a hyperactive, facially expressive Geraldine Viswanathan that’s lively enough to carry the movie past its amateurish shortcomings and cliché script), an art gallery worker who hoards an abundance of mementos from all of her past relationships.
Lucy is feeling optimistic about her current relationship with Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar), unable to realize that he sees her as more of a secret weapon for furthering his own career within the art world, despite literally telling her at one point “you’re my secret weapon.” Things go south at a gallery showing when Max is spotted with his former girlfriend who has returned to New York, and they only get worse as Lucy derails the event with her planned speech that quickly veers into drunkenly talking about herself and then injuring herself. In a cleverly amusing sequence, she mistakes a random car for her Lyft and befriends Nick (Dacre Montgomery) who gives in and drives her home after repeated attempts at explaining he’s not a service driver, naturally listening to her vent about her disastrous night and struggles with heartbreak on the way home.
While it’s immediately clear that Nick is going to become the next love interest, Lucy also lives with a pair of supportive friends that are instantly there for her while providing their own comedy to the proceedings, whether it comes from Nadine (Phillipa Soo)’s boasting about being a stay-at-home model and her numerous past lesbian relationships, or Amanda (Molly Gordon) who is the more attentive of the two and has her own boyfriend Jeff, the silent dude trope. One of many conveniences allows Lucy to encounter Nick once again (and continue running into Max as well) where she learns about his ongoing renovations of a YMCA to be transformed into a hotel that resembles his greatest memories of New York. It’s been a long bumpy process and not entirely financially backed, so Lucy comes up with the idea to leave one of her mementos from the relationship with Max inside the hotel and use social media to promote the titular place as somewhere people can turn their past dating life into an art gallery.
Expectedly, the best aspect of The Broken Hearts Gallery comes not just from the various trinkets we get glimpses of, but the stories that accompany them whether they are from key characters or unknowns. At times, there are documentary-like interviews spliced into the movie for all of these people, reflecting on past relationships either seriously or jokingly. Not to take anything away from the fine ensemble here, but it’s the strangers/characters we know nothing about telling their stories that bring the film alive most, making good on the central premise of the movie.
Sometimes, The Broken Hearts Gallery comes a bit too close to abandoning this premise in favor of the standard love story at the center (which has a completely unnecessary wrench thrown into things during the final act), but it’s at least always there in the character’s motives. Thankfully, the movie never lets itself become a generic love triangle which is a welcome subversive element. In addition to being a lightweight and charming film about letting go, it’s also about the difficulty in complications of opening up one’s heart. There is a strong case of opposites attracting at play, and the performances contain more than enough chemistry painting these two as potential partners.
The Broken Hearts Gallery may not do anything revolutionary with its study of breakups, but the idea has a number of moving moments alongside vibrant leads (Geraldine Viswanathan is quickly becoming one of the most radiant on-the-rise talents out there) that overcome Natalie Krinsky’s occasional inability to avoid predictability and formulaic storytelling.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com