THE BREAKER UPPERERS
Directors: Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek
Screenwriters: Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek
Jackie van Beek
Country: New Zealand
Runtime: 82 mins.
Australian release date: 26 July 2018
Previewed at: The Reel Room, Sydney, on 11 July 2018.
The Breaker Upperers, directed, written by and starring New Zealand actors Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, is the latest quirky comedy from the Land of the Long White Cloud. It was selected for this year’s SXSW music and film event in Austin, Texas, and in Australia opened both the Sydney Film Festival and the Revelation Perth International Film Festival - not a bad way to get the party started! It is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople, which is not all that surprising given that he was one of the executive producers of the film. It certainly exhibits the same droll style of humour but, regrettably, lacks the emotional heart that …Wilderpeople exhibited.
Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) are two friends who discover they have been two-timed by the same man and decide to put their demoralizing experience into a business specialising in breaking up relationships. They pose as jilted lovers, fake pregnancy, wear various costumes and disguises, pretend to be cops, whatever it takes to achieve their client’s desire to sever his or her connection with their partner. As van Beek says, “we’ve all been in relationships that we know need to end but it’s often hard to muster the energy or courage to call it quits. Breaking up with people isn’t fun.” The two ‘besties’ set out in a fairly ruthless and cynical manner, firm in the belief that their friendship is the only relationship they need, and their business booms. One day, though, Mel suffers pangs of remorse when she and Jen, dressed as policewomen, tell Anna (Aussie comedian Celia Pacquola) that her boyfriend has passed away and the poor woman weeps and weeps… and then weeps some more, and some more. Attempting to make amends, Mel tries to befriend Anna without blowing her cover, which gets increasingly hard to do as they spend more time in each other’s company. To make matters worse, Mel also starts having a fling with young client Jordan (James Rolleston from Boy, now all grown up). Both of these actions cause the two business partners and gal-pals to draw further and further apart.
The Breaker Upperers features a lot of strong female roles, and not just on-screen; most of the key crew were women too, including Heads of Departments, which is fitting for a movie about female friendship (or a ‘wo-mance,’ as the two writers have referred to it). Van Beek explains, “It was incredible to see these women who are at the top of their game join us to create this story. It was natural in a project like this to make even more effort than usual to make sure we had women in every role we could.” Script-wise, there are some very funny moments in this comedy, including the scenes with the gang that hangs out with Jordan’s “missus” Sepa (Ana Scotney) and their surreal dance to Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back to Me Now. Unfortunately, there are also scenes that don’t work so well and even disappoint as they run out of steam. The Breaker Upperers is nevertheless a brave attempt to conquer the world considering it’s an intrinsically niche Kiwi comedy but it’s been favourably received so far, ‘uccents ‘n’ ull’, and it’s the perfect time for a film about women, made by women.