The Breaker Upperers (2018)

The Breaker Upperers
Director: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Writer: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, Ana Scotney, Rima Te Wiata, Carl Bland, Brett O’Gorman, Cohen Holloway, Jemaine Clement
Seen on: 15.4.2020

Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) are best friends who have a booming business together where they handle the break-ups for people who can’t go through with the break-up themselves, for whatever reason. And they make sure that the break-ups stick – whether that means pretending to cheat with their clients, or pretending that they are dead or missing doesn’t really matter to them. But when Mel starts to second-guess the ethics of their job, not only does their business suffer, but also their friendship.

The Breaker Upperers is a fun film that continuously approaches the line into cringe territory but never really crosses it (for me at least). Still, there is a relentlessness to their humor that just isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. I did enjoy the film, but I didn’t love it.

The film poster showing Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) sittingat a desk with champagne and cash. Behind them Jordan (James Rolleston) and Sepa (Ana Scotney) look in through a window.

The Breaker Upperers is the kind of film where the protagonists pretty much talk all the time and at a very quick pace. It’s a very established style of comedy that obviously works for a lot of people, but I have to admit that I’m not necessarily one of them. And yet, I still enjoyed the film a whole lot with its quirky energy and its focus on the friendship between Mel and Jen. That Mel is openly bi was also a bonus in my book.

There are a lot of moments where the jokes in the film near the “line of good taste”, if you like. Jokes about various break-ups that are super cruel and problematic or about the “he’s 17, almost 18, he’s legal” Jordan (James Rolleston) are very close to being very uncomfortable. But there is always a sense of how fucked up the things are that Mel and Jen do that the jokes still worked for me. But I could understand if it went to far for you. What I’m not so sure about is how the Maori characters in the film are treated – are they just comical stereotypes or are they racialized stereotypes as well? At least there are quite a few of them.

Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) dressed in country gear with a guitar, delivering a singing telegram.

Sami and van Beek have great chemistry. I assume that they are friends in real life as well, given that they also directed and wrote the film together. In any case there is certainly a deep sense of friendship between Mel and Jen that feels very real and centers the film emotionally.

The film is pretty short – just over 80 minutes – and that’s a good thing. I don’t think that they could have sustained it for longer than that. Since they knew when to call it quits, it works out fine though. Overall it’s entertaining, but it probably won’t become a favorite of mine, despite making me laugh more than a couple of times.

 Mel (Madeleine Sami), Jen (Jackie van Beek) and Jordan (James Rolleston) confront Sepa (Ana Scotney) and her crew.

Summarizing: fun.

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