Teetering on the line between heartfelt relationship dramedy and sitcom silliness, director Jeff Rosenberg’s We Broke Up tells the story of longtime unmarried couple Lori (Aya Cash, “You’re the Worst”) and Doug (William Jackson Harper, “The Good Place”), who break up on the eve of driving to her sister’s wedding. More specifically, in a moment of pure, spontaneous love, Doug asks Lori to marry him while they’re picking up Chinese food, and she throws up in response. He’s so devastated by the moment, he ends things with her, though they eventually decide to pretend they’re still together for the sake of not screwing up the wedding weekend.
At various points in the movie, we’re treated to one of two tones. When the couple do some serious soul-searching about why they should or shouldn’t get married, the film allows these uniquely talented actors to really plumb the depths of their abilities and examine that rare breed of human that doesn’t feel that getting married is a necessary step. But the rest of the film is mostly antics having to do with the quirky wedding of sister Bea (Sarah Bolger) and Jayson (Tony Cavalero), after only knowing each other for a few months. The whirlwind nature of their romance seems to destabilize Lori and Doug, who appear to have an unspoken agreement to take their sweet time to the altar, or perhaps never getting legally bound. The film seems to mistake quirky for funny a bit too often. The fact that Bea and Jayson are getting married at the sisters’ old summer camp is actually kind of nice, but we’re clearly meant to think it’s one of many immature decisions this younger couple is making. Peri Gilpin plays the girls’ judgmental mother, who clearly doesn’t approve of the nuptials in the slightest and believes there’s nothing wrong with saying as much the day before the wedding.
An extended bridal party day of camp drinking games is actually kind of fun because it feels like something one would actually do under the circumstances. But that evening, both couples flirt inappropriately with other people, while Bea runs away because she thinks she’s incapable of finishing anything she’s started, and she’s afraid that trend will continue with her marriage. The emotional maturity of some of the these characters is about on par with a stick of gum, but director Rosenberg (who co-wrote with Laura Jacqmin) keeps things grounded (for the most part) when the story requires it. Lori and Doug even manage to find reasons to get back together over the weekend, but when they start to dig into why they broke up in the first place, things take a very real and difficult turn.
Cash and Harper are so darn likable that We Broke Up probably succeeds in places where it might not have with other actors. Even the way they argue makes sense and feels believable, and they find ways to hurt each other that seem appropriate for this couple and their chemical composition. The rest of the family and the wedding itself seems more like backdrop for the characters we care the most about, and when Lori and Doug aren’t together on screen, the film suffers without quite completely crumbling. It’s a mixed bag of a relationship profile, but this pairing is so strong, you wonder why no one has tried it before.
The film is now available theatrically and streaming via VOD.
Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!