Ever since Boy, Flight of the Concords and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, New Zealand has boisterously excelled with their surreal brand of comedy. Never satisfied with imitation or emulation, it’s a type of comedy full of wit but with the bravery to be outlandish in its silliness. Let’s face it – New Zealand is taking over the comedic world right now!
Their latest attempt, The Breaker Upperers follows in that same, established vein. Cynical about love and relationships, Jen (Jackie van Beek) and Mel (Madeleine Sami) form a particular and specialised business. You hire them for their services and they would devise a myriad of schemes to help an individual break up with their partner. Nothing is off the table in their covert, mishap operations, considering they can fake a pregnancy, pretend to be nurses or dress up as police officers reporting their client tragically died or is missing and its time for you to move on.
On a morality scale, the idea is nothing short of cruelty! If a relationship is not working, why not pluck up the courage and do it yourself? Works out cheaper! Yet The Breaker Upperers almost becomes a reflection of our societal trends, functioning as the anti-eHarmony and Match.com. Therefore, the concept doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the imagination. Besides the obvious financial benefits, their business taps into the fickle and desperate shallowness of people, often looking for any kind of frivolous excuse to exit their relationship.
The runtime is a breeze. For a fast-paced comedy, it has the perfect amount of laugh out loud humour which is silly, but simultaneously not afraid to accept and embrace its silliness. At times, the humour is cringeworthy, pushing the boundaries of awkwardness and embarrassment. Having said that, it’s unapologetic in its direction and never loses touch on its caricature characters and what they do to achieve the insanity. It possesses an endearing charm that made Hunt for the Wilderpeople so popular. Just like its predecessor as a cinematic homage to action films, The Breaker Upperers draws its inspiration from modern rom-coms and situation comedy and completely rolls with it.
Its fun appeal is down to its energetic stars Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami, who wrote, starred and co-directed this feature. Reminiscent of the collaborative chemistry of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, van Beek and Sami have a chemistry that’s telepathic in terms of timing. By conventional terms, their on-screen friendship is tested by outside forces, personal desires or the misguided notion of mixing business with pleasure. But it’s not often that female comics get to share the limelight and take complete control of that centre stage. I often think about the impact that Paul Feig had with Bridesmaids, flipping the gender switch to highlight that women can be funny like an alt-version of The Hangover. The Breaker Upperers is no different in that respect. The delightful duo delves into the extreme yet still maintain a loveable quality. The feeling is euphoric where you wish you could leap into the action and join in the fun. There’s even a ‘larger than life’ karaoke scene, and just like Deadpool 2, utilizes the dramatic power of Celine Dion’s music which is ripe for musical parody.
Executive produced by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and featuring Jemaine Clement (Legion) in a ‘you can’t miss him’ cameo, their involvement only serves to enhance the film’s brilliant reputation, but in reality, it’s never needed. The concept alone is strong enough, thanks to its sharp, comedic performances by its lead stars. No matter how clichéd or predictable it gets, they run the show with enough swagger that will permanently leave a smile on your face. The supporting cast of James Rolleston as the dim-witted Jordon and Ana Scotney as Sepa steal the show in places which have to be seen to be believed.
The great thing about The Breaker Upperers is that it is outrageously fun and hilarious. Crucial to its comedic identity, it knows exactly what it stands for. If you’re looking for a natural successor to Hunt for the Wilderpeople, make sure you view this one.
THE BREAKER UPPERERS is screening as part of the BFI’s London Film Festival 2018. For screening details and ticket availability, please visit their website for more details.