The Breaker Upperers (2018)
Unrated in the United States. Yeah, I'm baffled too. I mean, it would be rated R for being a pretty raunchy comedy at times. There's an entire strip tease joke that goes on a bit. There's a lot of sexual humor. There's language. It's got a lot of stuff that would give it an R. The international ratings all seem to aim the movie at mature audiences. There isn't any nudity that I can remember, but I did get a bit sleepy about midway through (Not the movie's fault). But the movie really plays up the drug elements. That's pretty hilarious, if not a little weird. It's an adult-friendly unrated film.
DIRECTORS: Madeline Sami and Jackie Van Beek
Oh man, I thought I was going to get a long period of time off. I had finished my list and I was watching a lot of TV. As much as I enjoy doing this blog, I do look forward to time off. But then my wife and I were looking for a light and funny night and that led us to this movie that we hadn't heard of before. But it was touted "From Producer Taika Waititi" and we were sold. I know that the producer credit shouldn't mean much. After all, Martin Scorsese has producer credit on a billion dumb things. But this was a New Zealand release so of course Taika had to have his name on it somewhere.
I have a really short way to put this movie and it doesn't exactly make for compelling reading: The Breaker Upperers is a very funny movie, but it isn't exactly a great movie. What I'm starting to realize about Kiwi cinema (if that's considered appropriate) is that it really thrives with absurd concepts. But I think what separates great absurd concepts is the notion of a really great movie behind it. I'm naturally going to make comparisons to the other works of Taika Waititi. Waititi is an absolute master of cinema. He's one of the most impressive directors of this generation. (I'm afraid to use the phrase "auteur" after some of the articles I just glanced over regarding Kubrick.) But looking at some of his movies, he tends to have a really great story coupled with absurdist jokes. When I think of Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit, I think first and foremost of the emotional resonance that those movies really arouse. Yeah, those movies really cracked me up and I often quote some of the better parts, but I left those movies kind of wrecked. They were these powerful tales about emotional connection. Even What We Do in the Shadows, Waitit's most arguably absurd films, had this emotional throughline that seemed kind of grounded, despite the fact that it was a mockumentary about vampires who have been abandoned by history.
But The Breaker Upperers almost feels like an extended sketch. We're kind of hitting some of the same level of farce that The Naked Gun movies kind of hit. Admittedly, The Breaker Upperers exists in a more silly version of reality as opposed to something like The Naked Gun, but it does tend ot really lean heavily into jokes. Now, this is where I have to make a choice as someone who writes a blog about movies: Is this a bad thing? I get the idea that the writers / directors / stars of the movie were very cool with the tone that they were aiming for. I don't know a lot about the duo in charge of this film outside that one of them really reminds me of Kristin Wiig. But this kind of feels like a passion project for these two. The movie really just aims for being funny. It's not like there isn't any vulnerability in this movie, but it is very limited and often the film uses the silliness of the tone as a whole to explain away how people would react in similar situations.
But then let's talk about what the movie is trying to get at. This is a movie, for all of its obsession with rollicking comedy, that comments on morality and friendship. The movie hinges on the concept that these two protagonists are doing something immoral. Yeah, I will say that the choice to dump people professionally seems pretty sketch. But there is something that kind of hangs in the background of the movie with the notion that some relationships can be considered toxic. Sure, Mel and Jen do some pretty sketchy things to help people break up. I'm sure that pretending that people are dead is pretty gross. But there is the notion that maybe these relationships should be disrupted. In a perfect world, people would be breaking up by themselves. But then the movie presents the situation of Jordan. The big joke is that Jordan is kind of a moron, but he's an adorable moron. He's an archetype, that's for sure. Jordan is this nice kid (that ends up being a running gag) who is in this relationship where he's bullied into staying into it. Jordan, by the way, seems morally questionable through his own stupidity. But Sepa is this absolutely toxic element in his life. I know that the movie gets them back together under the pretense that they were made for each other, a notion I probably contest pretty hard. I really think that Sepa is more of a way to close up the film without too many strings attached.
But the bigger question is how people take advantage of each other. Mel is this character who seemingly has it all together. That's adorable for me to say considering she gets pregnant with an 18 year old and ends the movie single and pregnant. But Mel has this healthy attitude towards life. She sees the best in people and she wants to be this instrument for goodness in the world. She views this service of helping people breaking up as something potentially normal. Now, I'm really straying into the world of moral relativism, but this is an absurd movie so I have to shift my perspective a little bit. But Jen seems to be this self-destructive element. She seems to be the primary protagonist in this movie because she has the greatest changes in her story. She goes from being a coke addled drunk to becoming vulnerable for a friend. Yeah, it isn't a great change, but it is enough to be considered something of a character arc. But she realizes that everything isn't about the self or romance. Yeah, from an outside perspective, this is a pretty mild lesson to learn. But again, I told you that there wasn't too much to write about.
I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. I guess I'm allowed to have little to say. It's a cute movie that lacks almost any substance. But in terms of laughs, it kind of crushes. It's hilarious if nothing else.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.