Lightning Media // 2009 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // November 19th, 2009
Breaking up is EASY to do.
Confession time: I like romantic comedies. I find them endlessly watchable -- even the bad ones -- and when I do come across a good one, I'm likely to return to it at least once a year. The oft-dismissed genre is largely responsible for bringing me and my wife together: we fell in love at the movies while falling in love with love in the movies. Reality folded back in on itself, and life became a Phillip K. Dick novel.
I thought it important that I disclose my affection for the romantic comedy so that you, dear reader, can properly contextualize my disdain for the 2009 genre entry The Break-up Artist. I would like nothing better than to berate the film for its laziness in finding anything original to say, its inability to sidestep a single cliché, its bland cast and flat, below-workmanlike direction, or its own misguided belief in the cleverness of its screenplay. I would like nothing better than that. Sadly, I just don't have the energy to get that worked up over The Break-up Artist. It aspires to forgettable nothingness and achieves it; a movie with its sights set so low is hardly worth breaking the sweat.
Poor-man's Jennifer Love Hewitt (there is such a person, and she is Amanda Crew of Sex Drive) stars as Britney, a cynic who long ago gave up on love and who has used that emotional detachment to create her own successful break-up business. After taking a chance on love and being burned by a jerk (Peter Benson, Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins Ball) who used her to start his own rival break-up agency, Britney hits rock bottom: jaded even further, facing going out of business and forced to fire her two best friends. Luckily, a shy artist (Ryan Kennedy, The Bend) offers her $10,000 to reunite him with Britney's awful, gold-digging sister (Serinda Swan, Tron: Legacy). Can Britney stop breaking people up long enough to play matchmaker? Does she have more in common with the sensitive artist than her awful, gold-digging sister? Will the two discover they have feelings for each other while generic pop music plays? Have you ever seen a movie before?
Here's the problem with most romantic comedies: they are unwilling to embrace their own simplicity. They're essentially all the same movie: two people meet, are hindered from being together before falling in love and end credits. But because screenwriters are unable to bring any truth or humanity to this universal scenario (except for you, Cameron Crowe), we get a series of idiotic setups and plots that don't resemble anything like life on Earth. One of the most popular conventions has become giving your main character some sort of romance-related profession that no person actually has or ever could have; that's why we get Sarah Jessica Parker as a woman who seduces deadbeats to help move them out of their parents house FOR A LIVING in Failure to Launch or Dane Cook, who acts like a jerk so women will go back to their ex-boyfriends FOR A LIVING in My Best Friend's Girl. I suppose the conceit of The Break-up Artist isn't so hard to swallow, comparatively speaking, but that doesn't make it any less hackneyed.
Surprisingly, The Break-up Artist doesn't even seem that interested in exploring its own plot. Britney gives up on her job at around the 25-minute mark and becomes a matchmaker for the rest of the film; couldn't the writers have made her cynical about love without her having to be a professional breaker-upper? And are we supposed to believe that single city (I think it's supposed to be somewhere in California, but it's clearly Canada if you know what I'm talking aboot) could support not one but two break-up agencies? And if you're going to create a montage consisting of references to other movies, could you come up with anything but Titanic and American Beauty? This is 2009. The future is now.
The copy of The Break-up Artist I viewed for the purposes of this review was a studio screener, meaning I can't comment on the finished product in terms of audio and video quality. The screener did not contain any special features.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightning Media
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13