The Break-Up (2006)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V- 5; L – 3 ; S/N – 5. Running time: 1 hour 46 min.

Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.’
Proverbs 9:6

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The Break-Up

I saw director Peyton Reed’s film (scripted by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender) on the same day that I viewed the L’Enfant, and thus was struck by the similarity of the male protagonists in the American and the Belgian films. Gary Grobowski (Vince Vaughn) is an immature Chicago tour guide who, as the opening credits role, has met art gallery worker Brooke Meyers (Jennifer Aniston) at a baseball game and wheedled his way into her heart, so that by the time the director’s credit appears, the two have entered into a relationship that includes the purchase of a condo in a prized location that neither could afford alone. But their relationship is about to take a turn that will thrust them into living solo again. What will they do about the condo? Thus we have a film in which economics is as important to the former lovers as once their love was—an interesting twist to a film that bears a slight resemblance to The Way We Were.

The actual break-up is more poignant than funny, but some of the resulting scenes are hilarious. Brooke is rightly upset when Gary refuses to help her clean up after a dinner party at which both their families were guests. (The dinner party, at which we see how quirky some of the relatives are, is very funny!) All along Gary has preferred to play his loud and violent video games while she cleans and cooks, and so, because she had put in a long and exhausting day at work, followed by shopping (he messes up on the one item he was supposed to pick up!), last minute cleaning, decorating the table and cooking the food, this refusal sends her off into a tirade of complaints. In his defensiveness Gary shouts back at her words that sting, and she responds with even greater fury.

The two part, she to their bed room which she now reserves as “My Territory,” and he to the living room with its fold-out bed and, above all, the TV and his game control. Each, like the participants in the U.S. Civil War, think that their war will be over soon, but neither is willing to say the word that will end hostilities. Instead they make matters worse by their actions and angry words, Gary, for instance, buying the pool table which earlier he had expressed a desire for, but which Brooke had rejected because it would take up so much space in the living room. Neither agrees to move out because they have so much invested in the condo. Thus life settles down to a long Cold War, despite the advice and suggestions of their friends and families. Who will give in first? And can this relationship be saved?

Do not listen to the many critics who have panned the film. No doubt it is flawed, but there are many funny and dramatic moments, several scenes with real insights into human nature and relationships. Were I a counselor I would use this film as an example of what not to do (along with such films as The War of the Roses and The Way We Were). Gary’s story could serve as a dramatic working out of Proverbs 9:6. This would be a good film especially for a group of young adults to watch and discuss

For Reflection/Discussion

(Note: the following includes some spoilers, so you might want to wait until you see the film.)

1) How would you describe Gary and Brooke? We are shown only the beginning of his courtship of Brooke, so what do you think he did that won her heart, given their different backgrounds and interests? How does the film show that a solid relationship that is to last has to be based on more than physical attraction or charm?

2) After their first flare up, what do each almost do before they retreat to their beds? How could this have made a difference in their relationship? What do you think of Brooke’s complaints? Valid? Comparable to what most other women list as shortcomings of the men in their lives? Why do you think so many men are so self-absorbed?

3) What do you think—that their friends and relatives are more of a hindrance, or a help to the couple?

4) Were you surprised that the bar tender was the one who brought Jack to his “Aha!” moment? Have you asked yourself such questions concerning your relationships: Who usually decides what to do/where to go for an evening of entertainment? How are household chores—cleaning, shopping, meal preparation, laundry, home decorating—divided up? How are the demands of work and these chores balanced?

5) What did you think of the ending? Did it follow the usual romantic comedy pattern, or did it seem more realistic? How is each character more ready to move on and enter into a longer lasting relationship?

6) Gary and Brooke are similar to so many young couples in that they live together but have not married. How might marriage have made their relationship more durable, other than, of course, the legal difficulties of disengagement? How can the wedding vows foster a deeper sense of commitment, “come what may”? Especially reflect upon the Christian understanding of marriage as a binding covenant.