For such a little country, New Zealand not only has a lot of talent oozing out of its confines, it’s also got a pretty distinct voice. Which is not to compare this movie to New Zealand’s most famous export, Taika Waititi (although it is produced by him), but there is a sense of humour there that is unique to its people, but travels well.
Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek write, direct, and star in The Breaker Upperers about a couple of best friends who, sharing a history of bad breakups, now run a business together breaking couples up. Mel and Jen think it’s pretty genius work. Someone wanting out of their relationship will contact them, and they’ll do what it takes to make a clean break – anything from singing telegrams, to pretend cheating scenarios, to even faking someone’s disappearance (which on paper sounds cruel, but this is all played for wide-brimmed comedy, and largely succeeds). It’s good money for them and quite entertaining for us, but we start to get an inkling that perhaps this line of work has stunted them – neither woman has a love life of her own to speak of. But when Mel starts to have a little too much sympathy for the wrong (ie, non-paying) end of the couples, what starts breaking up is their friendship, which is inconvenient when it’s the only relationship you’ve got.
The Breaker Upperers will definitely appeal to those of us who appreciate comedies that happen outside the Hollywood mainstream. Sami and van Beek have free reign to mine and prod whichever corners they choose, and they always find some sort of comedic dustbunny. If that means a 5 minute tribute to Celine Dion, then so be it. And it is funny, funny in the way it reminds of you of a movie you might have made with your own friends when you were twelve. It’s comedy that doesn’t have to hit specific buttons. It doesn’t have a predetermined arc; its route is more meandering, and retains the ability to surprise you without forgetting to entertain you.
I’m not sure how much reach this film will ultimately have, but I think it’s one worth seeking out, particularly if you’re a fan of Waititi’s, in which case, both their faces should already be familiar to you. And if they aren’t yet, they will be.