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June 8, 2006

'The Break-Up'

(Four out of Five)

Normally after I see a movie, I sleep on it at least a day before writing a review. A little extra time thinking about it helps my thoughts solidify. But today, here I sit on a Sunday afternoon having just seen "The Break-Up," and I want to go ahead and write so that I don't have to think about it any longer than I have to.

It's not that it's a bad movie; it's far from it. But the first thing you have to understand about "The Break-Up" is that it is not a comedy. "What?" you ask. "Those trailers were so funny." Yeah, I agree. But not long into the full movie, I realized that while the characters say and do some hilarious things, any humor comes from them and not their circumstances. The situation itself is downright sad.

The best way I can describe it is to tell you to think about something in your past you've really, really wanted. At the time, you may have been sure you wanted it and would have done anything to get it. But it may not have been the best thing for you to have. Deep down you knew that, but just could not accept it.

When you either didn't get it, or lost it, it was very, very sad, even though ultimately you were a better person for your loss.

In the frighteningly real screenplay by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston are the couple who think each other is the thing they really, really want. Never quite in sync, they go through the stages of their break up much like a death, which it is, in a way. They each suffer from denial, anger (a lot of anger), bargaining, depression and finally acceptance -- just never experiencing the same stage at the same time.

It's hard to say much about the outcome without spoiling the end of the movie. Just remember what it's called. I will say that "The Break-Up" flirts with giving us a typical Hollywood happy ending. Whether or not it succeeds, you'll have to decide. That depends on your experiences and how closely you can relate. For me, whether happy or sad, it was the right ending. It won't please everyone, but give it credit for not copping out.

Director Peyton Reed ("Bring It On," "Down With Love") keeps things moving as lightly and quickly as possible. The supporting cast is all right, but mostly seem to show up just to add some humor, or really so the leads have someone with whom to share their feelings. (They sure don't share their feelings with each other.)

It's terrific seeing Vaughn and Jon Favreau reunited on screen, instantly reminding viewers of their chemistry in "Swingers" and "Made."

There's been a lot of press, not only about the irony of Aniston making this movie following her highly publicized break up with Brad Pitt, but also about the possibility of her dating Vaughn in real life.

To quote Dennis Miller, "I don't want to go off on a rant here..." But...

First of all, why do we care so much about the personal lives of movie stars? If you had a whirlwind romance with somebody and it all came crashing down, would you want it publicized to the world?

I don't read supermarket tabloids, but how is it that even I know all about that vixen Angelina Jolie stealing hubby Brad from poor, poor Aniston?

Some people say that it's the price of being a celebrity. By being in movies or on TV, actors open their lives to the public. What a bunch of baloney. These people are just doing their jobs. Sure, they make more money than I can even count in my dreams, but if I had the looks or the talent, I'd do the exact same thing. They don't owe us a thing. In fact, I think it's pretty nice that they work so hard to entertain us just so we can take our minds off the drudge of every day living.

I really think as a collective whole, we're just bitter toward people who are so much more "successful" than us. But that depends on how you measure success. I've always thought that being happy meant you were successful.

If Brad Pitt truly broke Aniston's heart, how happy is she while she's rolling around on the bed in a pile of money?

And why play so coy toward admitting whether she and Vince Vaughn are dating? Again, why should we care? The way I see it, there's no chance of me dating either one of them, so it just doesn't concern me.

Maybe "we're" not only bitter, but unhappy. We can't see behind the drawn curtains of our neighbors' homes, but we can pick up "The National Enquirer" or turn on "Entertainment Tonight" and not only live vicariously through a public figure's life, but also revel a little in someone else's pain.

Finally, to calm myself down a bit, I have to laugh at the single most ridiculous fad to sweep the media that I have ever known. That would be the joining of two people's names to form a single moniker that implies they are no longer individuals, but rather one entity.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner cease to exist as individuals to become the mighty "Bennifer." Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are no longer singly adopting African children, but together as "Brangelina" leave no child's bloated stomach empty. And Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston are no longer co-stars of "The Break-Up." Rather, it's the combined magic of "Vaughniston" that lights up theater screens in multiplexes all over the world.

  • Jeff Owens is co-owner of Couch Potato Video in De Soto and an avowed movie buff.

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