Film Review: The Breaker Upperers

Hailing from co-writers, co-directors and co-stars Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, this is a sharp but sweet character comedy influenced by their longtime pal and colleague Taika Waititi (who signed on as executive producer), but there’s a particularly feminist perspective here and a nice moral message too.

Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek) are a couple of 30-somethings running the titular business in urban Auckland. A cool opening montage shows how they’re regularly hired to break up relationships without the other partner realising what’s happening by way of fake police reports, mock kidnappings, a fraudulent terminal illness and so on. They’re seriously old friends and there’s even a slightly intimate angle between them too, although Mel doesn’t feel any sort of thrill “down there” when the desperate Jen gives her a sudden try-out snog.

When the 18-or-so and pretty gormless Jordan (James Rolleston) shows up to pay the pair to help him bust up with the fairly fearsome Sepa (Ana Scotney), he and Mel become powerfully attracted to each other. Jen simply can’t handle it, especially when she hears her old cheating boyfriend Joe (slimy Cohen Holloway) is also back in town. The formidably weepy Anna (Celia Pacquola from the ABC’s Rosehaven), a former break-up target who thinks the pair are actual cops and dearly wants to be besties, also lurks on the sidelines. She threatens the bond between the two women further, especially during a revelatory karaoke performance of Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.

Niftily using a low budget, Sami and van Beek’s film is Waititi-ish in tone in the way that it loves all its characters (even if Jen is uptight and controlling, Jordan proves a bit of a moron and Sepa’s a scary reality-TV-wannabe-type), although the filmmakers ensure that there’s enough of their own idiosyncratic, Kiwi humour to make it very much theirs. Despite all the plot quirks, dance numbers, Tinder gags and Technotronic soundtrack cuts, in the end it’s really about friendship.

Rated M. The Breaker Upperers is in cinemas now.

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