I’m as susceptible to a halfway decent rom-com as the next human being; I’m more easily sucked in by a straight-up romantic drama, but have no objection to having a little humor tossed in to sweeten the deal. So when I sat down to watch the new film from writer/director Natalie Krinsky (a former “Gossip Girl” writer, which should have been the first of many red flags), The Broken Hearts Gallery, I was prepared to have it be a breezy endurance test at worst, especially since lead actress Geraldine Viswanathan was a highlight in Blockers. Here, she plays 20-something art gallery assistant Lucy who has the not-creepy-at-all habit of keeping souvenirs from all of her past relationships—so many, in fact, that her cluttered room makes her look like a romance hoarder.
Working at one of New York City’s top galleries (run by Bernadette Peters’ Eva Woolf), Lucy is currently dating Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a coworker she feels is the one that might actually make her give up her collection. But the minute his ex-girlfriend comes back from an extended trip to Paris, Max dumps Lucy, which results in one of many public-embarrassment sequences in the movie (they don’t all happen to Lucy, but goddamn, they happen a lot). To sweeten the embarrassment, she’s also fired as a result of the humiliation. She drunkenly hops into a car she thinks is an Uber, when it fact it’s just the car of a handsome guy named Nick (Australian actor Dacre Montgomery), who is amused enough by her condition and story to give her a ride home.
She retreats into her room (adding one of Max’s ties to her collection), and her roommates Nadine (Phillipa Soo, Hamilton) and Randy (Megan Ferguson, a standout in both Booksmart and Good Boys) do their best to yank her out of depression. Shockingly enough, Lucy runs into Nick again, they chat, and he brings her to his life’s work, restoring an old building and making it into a boutique hotel. Lucy gets the crazy idea of using a small portion of the lobby to house a pop-up gallery where people can leave their own relationship souvenirs called the Broken Hearts Gallery, and the city seems to respond to her idea, with people bringing items that love left behind (some from breakups, others from deaths; you get the idea).
Naturally, there’s an element of will they or won’t they with Lucy and Nick, but it’s not really a question, no matter how many artificial obstacles are thrown in their way. The immediate and most obvious issue with The Broken Hearts Gallery is that there isn’t a single human being in the entire story. Instead, we are bombarded with characters defined entirely by their quirks, each one delivering lines like they’re doing open-mic night at the Chuckle Hut in Cincinnati, instead of just talking to each other like adults. The scenarios they deal with are right out of either sitcoms or primetime soap operas—typified by the Big Reveal of why Lucy holds onto her broken-heart memorabilia so tightly (I won’t spoil the film’s one and only surprise).
If Krinsky’s screenplay had been even remotely funny, I might have been a bit more forgiving at its lack of characterizations, but there’s no threat of that happening. In fact, the only time there was any danger of me laughing during The Broken Hearts Gallery was when it attempts to get serious and heartfelt. When the male lead actually identifies an apologetic action as “a grand gesture,” I was done with this one. It’s entirely feasible I lost brain cells watching this film, and I don’t have that many to spare, so add that to the list of reasons it made me furious. The Broken Hearts Gallery features a cast of adults acting like children, pretending to be adults. And like most kids’ games, the film goes on way too long and doesn’t really have a point beyond “heartbreak sucks” and “falling in love is pretty cool.” If you can enjoy this, I suspect you are a better and more patient person than I am.
The film opens theatrically on Friday, September 11. Please follow venue, state and CDC health and safety guidelines if attending indoor screenings.
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