We Broke Up
2021, NR, 80 min. Directed by Jeff Rosenberg. Starring Aya Cash, William Jackson Harper, Sarah Bolger, Tony Cavalero, Peri Gilpin, Kobi Libii, Azita Ghanizada.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 23, 2021
Twice casting one-half of two of TV’s best love stories of the last five years was sound strategy, at least. Aya Cash – she of the perfect brows and a mien that’s like your five favorite Peanuts characters crammed into one – is most famous for her turn in FX’s anti-romantic comedy You’re the Worst; William Jackson Harper – wielder of a perfectly withering deadpan stare – was lately the neurotic but decent Chidi on NBC’s The Good Place. They’re both exceptional physical comedians who are skilled with drama, too, but this well-intentioned but slight, kinda-sorta rom-com gives them almost nothing to do.
The setup is killer, the title fulfilled in a handful of minutes. As longtime couple Lori (Cash) and Doug (Harper) wait for their takeout order, Doug proposes on impulse, and Lori’s gut reaction is to barf. Cut to the aftermath – they broke up – and the complication that forces them to pretend they’re still together for appearance’s sake: the upcoming wedding of Lori’s little sister Bea (Bolger). That wedding is set at Lori and Bea’s childhood summer camp – a unique, and ultimately underutilized, location that speaks to the kind of identity crisis writer-director Jeff Rosenberg and co-writer Laura Jacqmin’s script suffers from. Does We Broke Up want to be a broad comedy, the kind that mines pratfalls from the summer camp setting? Or does it want to be nuanced dramedy that really drills into how this seemingly loving couple went belly up? Splitting the difference, neither ambition is satisfied. The laughs aren’t big enough, and the relationship – though well performed – oddly has no texture: no sense of who Doug and Lori are (together or alone), what their history is, and how they came to have different ideas for their future.
There are a million reasons why couples break up. If only We Broke Up had landed on one, they might have really had something here.