Breaking up is easy to laugh at, hard to watch
“The Break-Up” is like hanging out with a couple of friends who always brawl in front of their guests.Even though the two partners might be individually likable – and their barbs caustically funny – sitting in on a fight is at least a little uncomfortable. So all the pains “The Break-Up” takes to divide the blame evenly actually detract from any satisfaction viewers might get: It’s as hard to pull for either member of the imploding couple as it is to hope the two stay together – or just go ahead and split up.Even though “The Break-Up” doesn’t provide much of a set-up for their relationship, real-life couple Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn play art-gallery representative Brooke and tour guide Gary with more gusto than many critics have given them credit for. After a scene detailing how the two met, the movie skips two years ahead through the credits to an incident that proves disastrous to the relationship and their joint mortgage on a Chicago condominium.Many earlier reviews and much of the promotional material emphasize the importance of the condo. It is nice, and neither wants to leave, which sets the stage for their territorial war of emotional attrition, but it isn’t quite the gimmick I feared.In fact, “The Break-Up” comes off as refreshingly free of tricks and traps of all types, as well as relatively evenhanded. Neither Greg nor Brooke is clearly more or less reasonable more or less often, and their most vindictive power plays blow up in their faces with the most severity.If he’s slightly more of a schlub than she’s passive-aggressive, director Peyton Reed has an equalizer in Greg, the muted new iteration in the motormouth lineage Vaughn started with Trent in “Swingers.” (There’s also a 10-year reunion between Vaughn and Jon Favreau, who plays burly Polish bartender Johnny O.)Aniston didn’t get the meatier role, but she makes Brooke far more appealing and down to earth than many would expect a high-strung big-city art-gallery clerk to be. Really, they both seem pleasant enough individually – if they weren’t locked into guerilla warfare over a small living space.It hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement, but “The Breakup” at least is often very funny despite being a major downer much of the time. In fact, it’s easy to imagine it being unwatchable with actors other than Vaughn, Aniston and their uneven but earnest supporting cast. (Vincent D’Onofrio stands out as Gary’s brilliant but socially awkward brother.)They say breaking up is hard to do, and it’s difficult to watch.Vail, Colorado
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