SOME have compared wacky new Kiwi comedy The Breaker Upperers to Bridesmaids. That‚Äôs not quite right.
They are similar in the sense that they‚Äôre both female-led comedies that unapologetically relish in being ‚Äúunladylike‚ÄĚ. But if you‚Äôre looking for a spiritual twin, The Breaker Upperers is a lot closer to TV series Broad City, with its story of complex and unbreakable female friendship and a fresh, irresistible looseness.
Written, directed and starring Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, The Breaker Upperers is packed full of that awkward, dry-as-a-desert Kiwi wit ‚ÄĒ the unmistakeable rhythm of a bloody good time at the movies. Plus, it‚Äôs produced by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and that is a man who knows talent.
Self-proclaimed ‚Äúcurry potato‚ÄĚ (half-Irish, half-Indian) Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek) are besties who own and run an unorthodox business out of their dingy wood-panelled offices.
They help people break up with their partners through elaborate ruses ‚ÄĒ fake deaths, fake pregnancies, fake mistresses and the most heartbreaking singing telegrams.
It usually goes off well enough until their two latest clients. One of them is a coward who recruits Mel and Jen to tell his girlfriend Anna (Celia Pacquola) that he‚Äôs dead. Dressed in police uniforms at Anna‚Äôs door, they give her the bad news only to be greeted with a torrent of tears, followed by more tears and, you guessed it, tears.
At the same time, sweet 18-year-old high-schooler Jordan (James Rolleston, all grown up from Waititi‚Äôs breakout hit Boy) hires the women to dump his girlfriend Sepa (Ana Scotney), a particularly sassy and terrifying teenager with the most choreographed group of friends.
These two cases end up tangled in their lives in unexpected ways, pitting them against each other and paving the way for hilarious hijinks including the most cringey and sexless striptease committed to screen.
It‚Äôs one of three extravagantly staged musical interludes ‚ÄĒ the others a mock karaoke dance clip set to Celine Dion‚Äôs It‚Äôs All Coming Back to Me Now and a brilliantly entertaining dance sequence involving K-Ci & JoJo‚Äôs 90s R‚Äôn‚ÄôB anthem All My Life.
Those dance numbers are gold, and along with eons of stunningly funny one-liners and ludicrous characters, The Breaker Upperers is consistently uproarious. The laughs don‚Äôt let up.
Which only makes its weaknesses more obvious. With so much attention and love paid to how each joke or gag pays off, it can, at times, feel like a 90-minute sketch show. Each element is strong, but its connective tissue is lacking. The looseness that makes it so appealing is what makes its overall narrative cohesion flounder.
It also doesn‚Äôt quite hit some of the emotional notes it‚Äôs aiming for.
But that shouldn‚Äôt take too much away from what is a genuinely playful and side-splitting movie that also happens to be the coming out party for two exciting and talented women.
The Breaker Upperers is in cinemas from Thursday, July 26.
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