By Jack Dignan
The New Zealand comedy is hard to top. From Boy to Housebound or What We Do In The Shadows to Two Little Boys, it doesn’t matter the genre for the deadpan humour always manages to land. Plus, it blessed the world with the existence of Taika Waititi, whose pure soul deserves to be cherished forever. The Breaker Upperers is the latest in a long string of laugh out loud comedies, with Taika serving as producer, and like all that came before it, it’s well worth a watch.
The whole gang’s back in the directorial debut of Madeline Sami and Jackie van Beek, who also play protagonists Mel and Jen, two women in charge of a privately run organisation known as the breaker upperers. If a partner is struggling to break up with their significant other, they enlist Mel and Jen to do the work for them, ruining relationships in the most hilarious of ways. An early montage proves wondrously effective in showcasing their day-to-day work life, featuring everything from missing persons to musical numbers.
But problems arise in their friendship when Mel begins to see the harm they’re doing. In breaking up couples, they’re also breaking apart lives, and after a series of clients become a little too involved in Mel and Jen’s life, a wedge is forced between them. It’s such a wonderfully ridiculous concept that’s absolutely perfected by Sami and van Beek, whose screenplay proves every bit as warm and moving as you’d hope.
New Zealand has mastered the art of the 80 to 90-minute feel good movie. This perfectly paced comedy is swift, easygoing, deeply affectionate, and laugh out loud funny. The two leads share an unbridled chemistry, bouncing off of each other in the upmost brilliant of ways, further elevated by a supporting cast who all get a moment to shine. Not only do we get the return of Boy actor James Rolleston, who has a scene in a car featuring one of the best jokes so far this year, but fleeting appearances from Jemaine Clement and Rima Te Wiata are beyond memorable.
While certainly a strong and to the point directorial debut, the second half does go on somewhat of a downhill slide. It’s not necessarily bad, per say, and there’s still so much here that works, but it’s the first half that’s far stronger. The plot they delve into feels like such a missed opportunity, not putting the original premise to as great a use as it could’ve been. It becomes a much more generic storyline, with a very predictable, albeit sweet outcome. Still, the brisk 81-minute runtime certainly ensures that this wedge in the plot isn’t felt for too long.
After opening the Sydney Film Festival to rave reviews, it’s safe to say New Zealand have another hit on their hands. Plot contrivances aside, this film is a hell of a lot of fun. Australian cinema is dying. Let’s not let the same thing happen to New Zealand. The Breaker Upperers hits cinemas tomorrow, and I implore you all to check it out.
3 1/2 Stars
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