As those of you who pay attention to such things may remember, I am a sucker for movies that are set in Chicago. In a sense, I feel I have a personal connection today’s film, The Break-Up (2006). Okay, it is a very limited “sense.” The male lead is Gary Grobowski (Vince Vaughn), a Chicago Polish name if I ever heard one, and he and his brothers run a tour bus company that takes people around the city. When I think of that scene, I am transported to a time when I was at Loyola University Chicago. It was one of those early spring days when the weather all of the sudden decides to be nice, and fades just as quickly. Whenever this happens, Chicagoans get out of their homes in droves, and I was no different in this regard. One of these rare days, I decided to take the exact kind of tour bus that you see in the movie, hence my limited connection. Now, I do not consider myself a tourist when I am in my hometown, but I do like to see it from their perspective. While the river architecture tour will always be the best way to see the city, the bus was pretty good, too. Anyway, on with the review.
Unfortunately, The Break-Up is not as idyllic as that afternoon spent motoring around town, though it does begin in the right setting. Gary meets Brooke Meyers (Jennifer Aniston) at that little slice of Chicago heaven that is Wrigley Field during a Cubs game. What starts as a rather awkward and clumsy hot dog that is essentially forced on her becomes a full-fledged relationship where they are buying a condominium together. Of course, this Catholic would not recommend them taking this course of action, but sometimes expressing such sentiments feels akin to shouting into the void. Yet, surprise-surprise, things start to get bumpy, which is made all the more difficult by the shared real estate. At issue is both parties not feeling appreciated by the other. She feels he does not care about the relationship enough, and he thinks she is too controlling. The defining moment comes after they have some friends over and he does not help as she would like with the cleaning. Given that they had already been arguing, she breaks up with him. Remember how I said that it is a bad idea to cohabitate before marriage? Yes, that sentiment is motivated by my Catholic Faith, but, personality differences aside, their next decision would be closing arguments if I were making a court case of the issue. Instead of having separate places to which they could retreat in the wake of their failed relationship, they decide to continue to live together as roommates. There is at least the healthy choices of seeking advice from their friends. Brooke has Addie Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), from whom she seeks relationship advice. Gary goes to his own best friend, John “Johnny O” Ostrofski (Jon Favreau), whose words of comfort are a little less complicated. Maybe one or the other, or both, could offer a place for their friends to stay in the aftermath? No? So, what do Brooke and Gary do while living together but not dating? They divide up the condominium, literally keeping to their own halves, and do everything they can to act in a passive aggressive, and sometimes overtly aggressive manner, in an attempt to get back at one another. For example, Gary makes a mess of his side of the living quarters, and has women over for inappropriate games of cards. Brooke, for her part, brings home dates and struts around wearing very little clothing. Neither one of them seem willing to budge, and eventually they contact their real estate friend Mark Riggleman (Jason Bateman) to sell the condominium. They now have two weeks before they need to move. It is Brooke that makes the first move towards reconciliation, inviting Gary to a concert. Him blowing it off prompts her to leave for Europe and travel around, and Gary devotes his attention to running his tour bus business in a more hands-on fashion. Still, some well-intentioned words from John get Gary thinking that he did not handle the situation well with Brooke. Hence, he makes his own last dish (no pun intended) effort to salvage their relationship by surprising her with a cooked meal at their condominium. Because she has been hurt, she is not ready to accept this peace offering. Gary seems to understand and leaves. They eventually move out for good and on with their lives. We close some time later with a chance meeting between them on the street. After a faltering greeting, Gary watches Brooke walk away while she glances back at him with a smile.
Does that give The Break-Up a happy ending, despite the title? You tell me. Whatever it is, it appears open-ended, and that is not my usual favorite kind of conclusion. Films do this because they seek to leave audiences wanting more, though I do not care to see any more of these two. I have already enfolded much of my annoyance with the film into the plot summary. It seems like the stereotype about the Catholic Church in regards to relationships is that, aside from being old fashioned, how could an institution with celibate clergy members hope to say anything of import in a modern context? One response to this notion comes from an unexpected source: Bulletproof Monk (2003). When the Monk (Chow Yun-Fat) gives dating advice to the main character, Kar (Sean William Scott), Kar reacts incredulously, saying that he is not going to take such words from a monk. The Monk reminds Kar simply that nobody is born a monk. This, too, applies to Catholic clergy, male and female religious. The other response to the issue in The Break-Up I would tell you is to refer to The Catechism of the Catholic Church. First and foremost, these living arrangements typically involve that which is meant to be reserved for marriage, meaning sex. Secondly, it plunges couples into situations that are best handled by couples that have the bond of the Sacrament. As I said above, simply showing this movie would be a good way of conclusively demonstrating why these situations are a bad idea. I get that this is just as a movie, and as a comedy much of the material is played for laughs. Further, over half of the couples that come to the Church for marriage preparation are living together. I would just leave you with this final thought: do you not think there is a reason why the divorce rate is so high?
For this reviewer, I would rewatch The Break-Up to see the genuine aspects of my home town, Chicago. If you pay attention to such things, you can see Wrigley Field before they did all the outfield renovations. Otherwise, you can skip the rest of the movie as it has a great deal of inappropriateness, much of which is not really funny in this day and age.