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This week:
The Break-up

Filthy says:
"Not even real yuppies are this shallow."

I had a nagging thought after seeing The Break-up. That's unusual because it's not the thought-provoking sort of movie. It's the kind of toilet paper that Hollywood specializes in; shitty but disposable, dissolving in the sewers of our minds and then forgotten before heading back to the shit-processing plant of Hollywood where it will be retrieved and recycled into more toilet paper.

The thought I had was, "Man, I never had a break-up that easy." What the hell are these pussies so worked up and mopey about?

The Break-up is a comedy about two people who split. The humor is supposed to come from how messy the break-up is and how vicious the people behave. Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, the two leads, still talk to each other after they split. Who ever heard of that? Yell at each other across a bar and key a note into the paint of the other's car, sure. Talk in civil tones? Try to get back together without it beginning with a violent fuck in an alley that feels something like love despite all the animosity, right up until you come? Then, not only do you hate him/her but also yourself. And you cry a lot.

After calling it quits, Aniston and Vaughn live under the same roof. And nobody gets an eye shot out with a pellet gun. That's like no break-up I've ever heard of. Sure, they don't sleep in the same room, but at the same time, neither of them has homicidal fantasies and wanders into the other's room with a USS Maritz commemorative letter opener and guts the other like a catfish, all soft and warm with creamy purple intestines flooding out in bloody lumps. Nowhere in this movie does Vaughn or Aniston tell the other's friends that he/she got genital warts from the ex. Vaughn doesn't do a late-night drive-by of his ex's place just to see if the lights are on, whose car is parked out front, what she's wearing and to piss on the bushes. And Aniston never sees Vaughn's car a few ahead of hers in a traffic queue, then follows it relentlessly for hours in circles around the city, getting dangerously close to the rear bumper, glaring angrily through the windshield, occasionally shaking her head disapprovingly for all the heartache he has caused her and that can only be reciprocated by slamming his car into a Jersey barrier or oncoming traffic. Nowhere in this movie does Vaughn drink himself into such a stupor that he loses the use of his legs and so slithers his way to the bathroom, where he pisses the pajama pants he's been wearing for four days, but is proud of himself for having the dignity to not do it in the living room.

So, how can this movie be about a break-up? It's not, really. It is about unpleasantness, whining, moping and being so sour that very few funny moments or empathetic characters survive. Seriously, a cloud of bitterness hangs over this movie like smog over Pomona.

Superficially, it's about feelings and the difficulty people have expressing them. The problem is that Vaughn and Aniston have nothing to express. Their characters are never defined enough to mean anything or resonate with anyone. They are stereotypes from stand-up comedy routines circa 1985. "Men and women are different. Am I right, people?" (Applause). Had either of the main characters watched Evening at the Improv 20 years ago they could have avoided this entire mess. Had the writers and director, we as an audience could have avoided it. It's too bad that neither character has any likable traits besides being prettty, or that they only truly feel the pain of the break-up when their precious yuppie condo has to be sold. But that's what this movie is about. It is more about things on the outside than it is about all the black shit that bubbles up from inside when you tear away from someone you love.

The Break-up never touches upon the emotional devastation one feels after an ex tells you she doesn't love you now, in fact never loved you, fucked your best friend and, oh, also just set fire to your car. It's not about a knock-down, drag-out fight that ends under the Tavern's shuffleboard court where a woman you took to the movies twice and felt up in the Olde Town grandstand scratches your cornea with her acrylic nails until your vision is clouded by blood for two weeks and is permanently obscured by motes.

These are the hallmarks of any real and heartfelt split; the way a normal person deals with the dissolution of a dream or the loss of all romantic hope. A normal person puts Galaxie 500's "Listen the Snow is Falling" on repeat for 18 hours because it makes him think of her and all the times they listened to it together on long car trips and she would tell him how much she hated that song. In a true break-up, emotions are raw and exposed like the heart of one of those sick kids on a late-night commercials for the Make-a-Wish foundation who was born with her organs outside her chest cavity. You know, the kids you want to poke with a stick. Logic is frayed and intermittent. Your cognitive sense is cloudy. You can float through an entire day without being conscious of your actions, and yet, at a half-past midnight, there you are half-naked on the corner of Olde Wadsworth and Ralston, drunk and throwing rocks at passing motorists, just as you would have any other night. You are overwhelmed by a sense of dread that feels the way that one song on Low's "Things We Lost in the Fire" sounds.

The way Aniston and Vaughn first meet is, I think, supposed to be cute, and it may be in some frat guy's wet dreams. Vaughn condescends and bosses around Aniston and she acts so damn stupid that she falls for it. If I were a girl and he tried his bullshit pickup lines on me, I'd punch him in the nuts. Those first few minutes really set the tone for how clueless the writer and director are about what men and women find attractive.

The secondary characters of The Break-up are underdeveloped and virtually meaningless. You don't know Vaughn or Aniston any better by who they hang out with, or what they say to them. Well, you do know they complain a lot and their friends listen. But you don't get any insight into what drew the exes to each other or kept them together.

In particular, I got the sense that there was once a funny gag involving Jason Bateman's realtor that got edited out. What is left is a shell of a character and the setup for a joke that never gets told. John Favreau, whose whole body is as fat as Vince Vaughn's face, gets a few good lines in, but has the thankless job of knowing all and explaining all because it was easier for the plot to keep Vaughn as dense, blustering and clueless as a House Republican.

Maybe I'm off base, here. Maybe this is how yuppies really live. I might go peek in a few windows in West Arvada tonight to find out. If it is, I'm going to stop stop being jealous of how they waste their disposable income on perennials and not on liquor. They're just too shallow and sad to care about. One Finger for The Break-up.

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Pete Hammond of Maxim

X-Men 3:"They've saved the best X for last! Awesome! This one's got it all!"

"Head straight to Cars! The perfect summer joyride from start to finish!"

A Prairie Home Companion is "A rollicking good time...guaranteed! Pure entertainment with great music, wit and a dream cast!"

So, who do I go to to get my money back if I don't enjoy Prairie Home Companion? Pete Hammond or Robert Altman?

Filthy's Reading
Raymond Chandler- Stories and Early Novels

Listening to
Low - Things We Lost in the Fire