The Break-Up was supposed to be the movie where Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston got together. Instead, in a bizarro version of what Us Weekly photographed on set, their trademark good guy and girl blow their mutual affability in a dull show of falling apart. Gary is a working-class dude who wants to make it big in the Chicago tourism industry. Brooke is prepped-out old money who, despite her hard edges and artistic ambitions, plays house, washes dishes, and compromises like crazy to create a shared orbit of yuppified bliss.
It’s hard not to take her side when their ship hits the fan and friends get asked to vote on which one should be cast out of their circles. Brooke, as she explains, hand on hip, lips turned down, just wants some show of appreciation in return for her wifey devotion: favors offered without being demanded; ballet tickets, just because she’d like them. And if Brooke, when she says this, sounds strident and brittle, it’s only in part because she’s Jennifer Aniston. Announcing that she won’t spend one more minute waiting for help with the dishes isn’t some declaration of independence. It’s more like hoping Gary will get up off the couch.
But he can’t, or won’t, and this Lebowskian approach to keeping Brooke on the ball is supposed to be his charm. Faced with a long and miserable road on which they make each other sorry or crazy, both Brooke and Gary dig in hard on the least appealing parts of their stock characters. Gary gets shitfaced, commissions girls, and mopes around looking pasty. Brooke falls back on pathetic revenge maneuvers and whines mercilessly to her bossy best friend. The worst part is, her tricks don’t work: Brooke’s saving grace, in this strange paean to domesticity, is when she finally breaks down and cries like a girl.