Sunday, 6 May 2018

IN THEATRES: The Breaker Upperers

Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie Van Beek) run a business providing 'break-up' services for people who are too scared to do it themselves.

When Mel gets too close to some of their recent clients - including James Rolleston's Jordan - her crisis of conscience threatens to destroy their business and friendship.

Written, directed by and starring Madeline Sami and Jackie Van Beek, The Breaker Upperers is a new comedy from the producers of Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (as you can see on the poster). I think a lot of people are going to go into this movie thinking it will be a similar experience to those movies - off beat humour underpinned by a bitter-sweet foundation of emotional truth.

While it makes a good fist of balancing the laughs with the relationship between our anti-heroines, this movie is at its best with offhand inanities (the Rainbows End line had me crying) and gobsmacked bystanders (if there was an award for 'mass stupefaction', the extras in the rugby club would win).

As the leads, Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek are great. They have been doing great work in supporting roles for so long, it's about time they had their own vehicle. Together, they have a sweet-and-sour dynamic that carries the movie through some of its lulls.

Sami gives Mel a goofy warmth and a sense of child-like fun that softens the cynicism of what the pair are doing. You feel like she really enjoys the play of their masquerades, while Van Beek is more interested in their ruses as a means to an end.

James Rolleston is pretty funny as Mel's dim bulb love interest, Jordan. Maybe it is just the nature of the role, but I was a little bummed out that Rolleston didn't get more to do. Ana Scotney is also a lot of fun as Sepa, Jordan's firebrand ex.

The real standout was Rima Te Wiata as Jen's mother. After great supporting roles in Housebound and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, someone needs to give her a movie to headline. She appears for minutes here, and steals every scene she's in.

My one problem with the movie was that it wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. It is consistently amusing, but some of the big set pieces didn't quite hit for me. The highlight is a sequence in which our anti-heroes have to take their police impersonation into a police station. The problem is that this scene takes place about midway through the movie and no sequence really hits that high again.

Overall, The Breaker Upperers is a solid comedy that should act as a calling card for Sami and Van Beek to get more and bigger opportunities.

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