Want a Valentine’s Day romcom that is neither romantic nor funny? The Breaker Upperers is here to disappoint all your expectations and make sure your Valentine’s Netflix and chill ends with your date begging for the TV to be shut off, and not for the right reason.
Initially released in New Zealand, The Breaker Upperers released internationally on Netflix on Friday, and features a majority female cast, most notably leads Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Saml, who is also the writer and director of the film.
The Breaker Upperers follows two middle-aged women, Jen (van Beek) and Mel (Saml) who are cynical about love and run an agency that helps people—who are too scared to do so themselves—break up with their significant others in unorthodox ways. Posing as police officers, prostitutes, and kidnappers, Jen and Mel help people avoid their awkward breakups through wild (and illegal) scenarios, telling one woman Anna (Celia Pacquola) that her husband has died and his body had gone missing, while her husband was alive and well, just in the trunk of their car. Another client, the young, barely-legal rugby player Jordan (James Rolleston), wants to break up with his overbearing girlfriend Sepa (Ana Scotney) and develops romantic feelings for Mel, who is almost 20 years his senior.
After Mel befriends Anna, Jen begins to feel jealous of their relationship, and Mel begins to have second thoughts about their business. To further stir the pot, Joe (Cohen Holloway), an old flame that was the catalyst to Jen and Mel’s friendship when he cheated on them with each other in their 20s, comes back to town happily married with three kids, and Jen’s long pining for him resurfaces. Among Mel’s romance with Jordan, friendship with Anna, and Joe’s return, Jen and Mel’s friendship and business get tested, as both women try to figure out what path to continue on in love, life, and friendship.
Although The Breaker Upperers boasts female leads, cast, and direction, the movie is so terribly unfunny that it is cringeworthy to sit through. The humor is definitely lowbrow, with sex usually being the punch line, and has such offensively forward scenes that the audience is left feeling uncomfortable. The sexuality is so in-your-face (featuring an extended bad sex scene of Jen with a Tinder date, among others) and goes on for so long without pause that the audience is left grasping for anything else as a short respite from the sex. While the movie could be characterized as raunchy, the dirty humor is just done so badly with weird pauses between jokes that create an atmosphere of awkwardness rather than sidesplitting.
None of the characters are particularly entertaining or likeable. The main characters run a business that helps people who can’t deal with their own problems avoid those problems, while they themselves are refusing to deal with the glaring issues in their own lives. The two women, nearing their 40s, substantiate their lives with drugs and alcohol. Even to the end, that empty lifestyle does not seem to change for the two, despite the film trying to suggest that they have undergone character development.
The side characters are also unlikeable: the uncomfortable relationship between Jordan and Mel; the oblivious, sad-to-the-point-that-the-audience-can’t even-sympathize Anna; and a vaguely racist, walking stereotype of a human being that is Sepa. The characters are archetypes, but not even done well.
Awkward jokes that completely miss the mark fill the empty void that is The Breaker Upperers, making the film so bad that it’s not even ironically funny. Moments that were meant for the audience to laugh just result in silent stares, as the audience vaguely understands that there should have been a punch line, but fails to find it. The flow of the film is so confusing at times that viewers almost feel drunk watching it, despite being completely (and unfortunately) sober.
If you want your date ending up in an awkward silence with no sexual tension left, then indulge in this not-so-romantic romantic comedy on your next date night. If you still value your relationships, however, spare anyone the hour and a half of pure discomfort that is this movie.
Featured Image by Netflix