THE BREAKER UPPERERS – funny and fresh

The Breaker Upperers is funny on a few levels. It bundles together outrageous laugh out loud scenes, clever observations, and a plot that will challenge some conservatives (what would Israel Folau think?) to produce a sharp, snappy and very satisfying comedy.

It’s written and directed by its two stars, Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek. The pair play friends who run an agency which offers to break up your relationship. Turns out there are more than a few takers, and the film starts with snapshots of various clients who come pleading for help from Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek). To achieve the break ups, the two women adopt all manner of costume and subterfuge.  Not an easy job to pull off, especially for Mel, the more empathetic of the two, who’s increasingly confronted by the emotional turmoil they put their victims through. One such victim, Anna (Celia Pacquola) proves a case too far. We also find out how Mel and Jen’s past has intertwined in such a way as to provide some friction to their relationship. And when teenage client Jordan (James Rolleston) turns up, that friction runs hot.

The story takes us through this testing of the bonds of friendship and love, and while the ending isn’t too much of a surprise, the journey there is well worth while. Sami and van Beek play off each other to great effect, and their comic turns work a treat. An escapade at a police station is a high point, while their confrontation with a family to break bad news is well dunked in pathos.

What the film makers deserve great credit for is the way they deal with subject matter that might make some writers baulk, or at least search for a serious treatment. But issues like bisexuality, relationships with younger partners, and female masturbation, among others, are treated in a “so what”? fashion. They resonate all the more deeply because of that. I also liked the way, in one short line, they acknowledge the film takes place in New Zealand.

The supporting cast generally do good work, with Celia Pacquola shining as the grieving victim of a break up. James Rolleson’s Jordan, Ana Scotney’s Sepa, and Rima Te Wiata as Jen’s mum add a great deal of humour. But here the writers have relied on a degree of stereotyping, or at least that’s how if felt. Te Wiata is a hoot as the mum, but we don’t learn anything about her or why she behaves the way she does. Sepa and her friends are a foul mouthed hard-arse band, and prompted plenty of laughs. Their dance sequence near the end is classic. Still, the representation of disaffected youngsters is close to cliché.

I enjoyed the film a lot. The performances, especially from the leads, are as good as you’ll find in any comedy from anywhere. I also liked the way Auckland, and Aucklanders, are showcased. It’s a film which you’d think would do well in other countries. I hope so.

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