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The Break-Up

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 6/7/2006

“Gary? You got me three lemons.” Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) is fretting over a dinner-party decoration, but her boyfriend, Gary (Vince Vaughn), refuses to leave his football game to get the dozen she asked for. This small disagreement proves the edge of the wedge and, one ugly shouting match later, Brooke and Gary have split up. Trouble is, they both own the spacious condo that’s their home, and so they’ve got to parcel off their territory—Brooke gets the bedroom, Gary gets the living room, and every stroll through a designated “common area” is a potential minefield. Those hoping for a Split Cute, that antithetical movie obverse to the Meet Cute, are in for a mouthful of nettles as Brooke and Gary spend the movie verbally abusing each other. Actually, it’s just Gary who’s abusive—this unlovable, narcissistic, infantile lout heaps sarcasm and pain upon the undeserving Brooke for not being ethnic, working-class, and undercultured enough, while she grants Gary second and third and fourth and umpteenth chances to redeem himself, a vicarious experience too masochistic to balance the movie’s comedic elements. Aniston, the Debbie Reynolds of the new millennium—a title awarded both for on-screen lovability and tabloid agony—for once uses her inescapably typecast persona to earn our instant sympathy as we watch her suffer through loving a man who doesn’t deserve her. The conclusion is less the romantic comedy’s elation of all’s-well-with-the-world and more like the relief of taking off a painful pair of shoes.

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