For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t like to make buddy pictures about women. So it’s a nice surprise to have a comedy from New Zealand about two friends, Mel and Jen, who run a company that specializes in breaking couples up. The Breaker Upperers stars Madeleine Sami as the slightly dim Mel and Jackie van Beek as the brains of the company (or at least, she thinks so), Jan. The two women wrote and directed the film which comes from Taika Waititi’s (‘What We Do in The Shadows,’ ‘Thor: Ragnarok’) production company. Both actresses have appeared in Waititi’s films with van Beek in ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ and Sami in the hilarious and touching Eagle vs Shark.
Mel and Jan are best friends, having formed a friendship 15 years ago when an old flame they unknowingly shared until they found out that he was sleeping with both of them, and kicked him to the curb. The women orchestrate breakups, posing as everything from a pregnant woman to a cowgirl who sings a breakup country song complete with guitar and harmonica. When the film first opens up, we see Jan and Mel dressed as police officers. We hear a woman oft screen crying so much that Jan can’t get a word in edgewise. They are there to tell the wife, Anna (Celia Pacquola) that her husband has drowned, and the only thing that they could find was his watch left on a dock. Mel and Jan leave the woman in shock in the middle of her living room, and as they get to their car we see that the husband is in the backseat with a suitcase about to leave the country. The two women work together extremely well, with Jan usually taking the lead and Mel there for support.
The film opens promising as we see a series of very funny breakups that Jan and Mel cook up to destroy both straight and gay couples. Things start to change when they are hired by a young rugby player, Jordan (James Rolleston), who wants to break up with his girlfriend, who he calls a ‘delicate flower.’ Jordan is not the brightest guy out there, having tried unsuccessfully break up with his girlfriend, Sepa (Ana Scotney) with emoji’s. Sepa doesn’t understand what he is trying to do and sends back to Jordan some happy faces and hearts.
The breakup goes from bad to worse as Mel poises as Jordan’s new girlfriend. It turns out that the ‘delicate flower’ Sepa is a rather rough looking woman who has anger issues and has a posse of equally scary looking women. Instead of letting Mel take control of the breakup, Jordan goes on and on, saying that Mel is pregnant and even gets down on a knee to propose to Mel right there in front of Sepa. Jan seeing from a distance that the breakup isn’t going well comes over and tries to take charge of the situation, ending up getting punched on the nose by Sepa and Mel, Jan and Jordan barely are able to escape the clutches of Sepa and her gang.
What I loved about this film is the friendship of Jan and Mel, though they are very different women. Jan is selfish and sleeps with a lot of men. Mel is the nicer of the two and starts up friendships with both Jordan and Anna, the now widowed cryer. I think that Mel, in establishing these relationships, to which Jan is very much opposed, is a way of Mel telling Jan that she wants more from their friendship. I also loved all the 80s and 90s references. There is a very funny scene on a party bus where Mel sings a Celine Dion song as Jan imagines that she and Mel are in a music video done in the style of the 80s, all sappy looks, and horrible eighties clothes.
What I didn’t like about the film is that the comedic scenes are very uneven, and the film’s middle gets bogged down when the two women end their friendship over a disagreement on how they should conduct the breakups. The scenes between Jordan and Mel, as they start dating, are the weakest of the film, as there just isn’t any chemistry between Sami and Rolleston. I also thought the direction by Sami and van Beek is sometimes a little jarring in its transitions from scene to scene.
Overall, I liked The Breaker Upperers which just appeared on the Netflix platform, but I didn’t love it like I wanted to. There were too many scenes, especially in the middle of the film where I just didn’t laugh. I did enjoy the open to the film, and I loved how Jan gets Mel back by doing a big song and dance number near the end of the movie. I just wanted more comedy and less drama.
The Breaker Upperers Review:
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
Mike’s Rating System from Best to Worst:
I Would Pay to See it Again
You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again