Games People Play

The Break-Up

Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston star in a film written
by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender and directed by Peyton

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Somewhere in the middle of this pleasant blur of an extended
sitcom, you may find yourself lost in a distracting reality check.
As even a casual peruser of tabloid covers, stuck in grocery store
lines with nowhere more compelling for your eyes to go, you know
about Jennifer Aniston and her breakup with that other guy and the
arrival of this less Adonis-like but solid jokester in her life.
Meanwhile, the Pitt/Jolie side of the sordid saga continues,
another branch of this breaking news story of mediocre, beautiful

Oh, sorry, we’re talking about this movie. It’s an extended riff
about a breakup, and all the games people play along its protracted
path. We’re confused, naturally. Are the real-life follies from the
tabloids actually plotted by the publicity department as a new kind
of sneaky, bass-ackward promotional campaign for the film? Is the
film a sneaky promotional campaign for the cash-rich tabloids? Or
are they all in it together, conspiring to extract our dollars
coming and going, in schemes coming soon to grocery stores and
multiplexes everywhere? Life in the 21st century is so

Most of all, it’s confusing that Aniston keeps finding her way
to the big screen, since it seems that the comfy confines of a
small screen series is better suited to her small-scale charms.
Vince Vaughn, meanwhile, co-wrote the story and gets all the zinger
lines (plus, he has the natural comic timing to deliver them, while
Aniston is more catty and self-righteous, even though her
complaints about the self-absorbed male party are warranted).

The scene is Chicago. Aniston works in an art gallery and Vaughn
flexes his gruff charisma as a bus tour guide, and they’re a loving
couple at the start, we presume. A rough evening of quarreling and
quibbling leads to an idle threat of a breakup, and instead of
leading to quick resolution and make-up sex, opens up a cruel
back-and-forth as the lovers taunt and test each other. We can view
it in terms of a game, in which the conniving lines and maneuvers
they make never reveal the true feelings, implicitly supplied in
thought bubbles we in the audience supply.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the film, a perky and
brainless little night out. But upon post-theater reflection, we
feel the aftertaste of its shallowness. Despite some stinging
moments of truth (and twinges of recognition about how the romantic
gambit works in the real world), the movie unfolds with the
comforting progression of TV dramedy. It will play well on


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