The Breaker Upperers (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): A couple of break-up professionals


New Zealand comedy film “The Breaker Upperers”, which was recently released on Netflix, cheerfully bounces along with its two female main characters as generating many quirky and funny moments during its short running time (90 minutes). Although it drags a bit during its last act, the movie still has enough comic momentum to hold our attention, and, above all, it is supported well by the undeniable comic chemistry between its two lead performers.

Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, who are also the directors/writers of the film, are Mel and Jennifer, two longtime friends/business partners who have run a special agency for people in the need of breaking up with their significant others. For helping their clients, they have used rather unorthodox means as shown from an amusing montage sequence, and their latest case is helping a guy fake his death and then get away from his wife. While disguising themselves as police officers, they come to his house for notifying his wife of his ‘death’, and we get the first hilarious moment in the film as they try to look condolent in front of her but cannot help but throw some zingers at each other.

We later get to know about how Mel and Jennifer happened to get involved with each other some years ago. Jennifer had a boyfriend named Joe (Cohen Holloway), but this guy was actually a philanderer who had slept with many other women, and one of them was none other than Mel. Since they met each other due to Joe’s infidelity, Mel and Jennifer have worked closely together as becoming each other’s best friend, and it looks like their friendship is the only meaningful thing in their life.


However, things get complicated when a new client comes to their agency. He is a 17-year-old rugby player named Jordan (James Rolleston), and he wants to break up with his current girlfriend Sepa (Ana Scotney), but he is afraid of telling that to Sepa because of her rather aggressive attitude. His situation looks like a very easy case, but then he becomes attracted to Mel as talking more with her, and Mel does not reject his approach at all even though Jennifer reminds her that she must not be emotionally involved with her client.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Jennifer has her own emotional issue to deal with. While not so satisfied with her current boyfriend, she feels more constipated and discontent than before, and then, by coincidence, she comes to learn that Joe recently returned for settling along with his wife and kids. As she watches him from the distance at one point, it is clear to us that she still has some unresolved feelings toward him, and we are not surprised when she eventually confronts him later in the story.

As Jennifer and Mel’s relationship becomes more strained than before, the movie diligently serves us a number of nice comic moments to be savored, and there is a humorous scene showing their accidental encounter with Anna (Celia Pacquola), the wife of that aforementioned client of theirs. While not telling anything about who they actually are, Jennifer and Mel come to have a pretty wild evening along with Anna, and their fun time eventually culminates to an uproarious moment accompanied with a certain song by Celin Dion.

After that, Mel understandably feels guilty about what she and Jennifer have done for years, and that naturally makes her conflict with Jennifer. In addition, she goes further along with Jordan shortly after he managed to break up with Sepa, and she subsequently finds herself in a circumstance where she has to be more serious than before.


Although some of its comic energy is dissipated during its second half, the movie maintains its lightweight mood mostly well, and Sami and Van Beek’s screenplay keeps tickling and amusing us. I was especially amused by the scene set in a police station where Jennifer and Mel must maintain their disguise in front of Anna, and I also appreciated the good comic timing during an absurd scene involved with a surprise birthday party.

Above all, it is always fun to watch the farcical interactions between Sami and Van Beek, and they ably fill their respective roles with lots of humor and personality. Although I am not familiar with either of them (I only saw them playing supporting characters in Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire comedy film “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014), by the way), the movie showed me that they are talented comedy performers to watch, and I hope we will watch more of their comic talent in the future.

Sami and Van Beek also assemble a bunch of colorful cast members around them. While James Rolleston is endearing as a hopelessly sweet and naïve lad, Ana Scotney steals the show as a feisty young woman who will not easily give up her man, and Celia Pacquola, Cohen Holloway, and Rima Te Wiata are solid in their small respective supporting roles.

Although it becomes a little too predictable around its finale, “The Break Upperers” did its job as well as intended while generating enough entertainment for us, and I had a fairly good time with its offbeat comic spirit. In short, this is one of more enjoyable movies from Netflix, and I willingly recommend it if you want something funny and different.


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