The Break-Up

What I hate about Jennifer Aniston is that she’s a moderately talented sitcom star whom celebrity magazines treat like the next Julia Roberts. If they gave such a break to, say, Maura Tierney, I wouldn’t complain. Tierney got her sitcom break on the underappreciated NewsRadio at around the same time Aniston landed Friends. They were originally known for doing comedy; both have tried to branch out. They even look a bit alike. But the similarity ends there, because Tierney is a phenomenal actress (she’s carried me through three or four otherwise unwatchable seasons of ER now), whereas Aniston is…a moderately talented sitcom star. I haven’t seen The Good Girl, to be fair; people say it’s her best performance, so maybe I’m missing something. But I did see Derailed—for two dollars, fortunately—and based on Aniston’s performance there, I can say that as a dramatic actress, she’s…a moderately talented sitcom star. She’s Rachel, always will be, and should take the path to Roberts-level success that involves never leaving her creative comfort zone and flashing a huge grin in public.

All of this is to say that I went into The Break-Up (again for $2) for the sole reason of wanting to see whether Aniston sucked in it. She doesn’t, but then, Brooke is Rachel with a bigger bank account. I got totally sidetracked trying to answer that question, though, because I was too busy trying to figure out what this movie is. A romantic comedy? It’s not funny—doesn’t really even try—and it’s not romantic. (I can’t say more without spoiling it.) A buddy comedy? But Vince Vaughn’s Gary doesn’t spend that much time with Jon Favreau on screen. A chick flick? But Brooke doesn’t spend that much time with Joey Lauren Adams. A serious study of modern romance? Then why on earth would they cast Aniston in it?

I get the feeling The Break-Up was actually supposed to be that last thing, a sensitive character piece about two people who stay connected once they disconnect, but the script got hijacked by a publicist with an agenda. It reminds me of Forces of Nature or The Banger Sisters—movies that had a shot at being interesting before they got refashioned into star vehicles. The Break-Up doesn’t work as a star vehicle. It’s too uncategorizable. It’s not a feel-good comedy, it doesn’t have a lot of action, and it doesn’t give underrated performers a chance to show off their range. It wants you to walk out of the theater thinking—not thinking, “Jennifer Aniston® is my new favorite actress,” but thinking, full stop. If a couple of talented but lower-wattage actors—say, Laura Fraser and Kevin McKidd, who, I’ll tell you in the spirit of giving two reviews in one, tried their valiant damnedest but were unable to salvage the hideous crapfest that was 16 Years of Alcohol—had taken the roles, this might have been a movie worth seeing. As it is, it’s an ineffective vehicle for repurposing Jennifer Aniston.

Plus her brother and his vocal group? Are fucking annoying.

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