BREAK ALL THE RULES
Kiwi comedy The Breaker Upperers offers a refreshingly matter-of-fact treatment of female sexuality mixed with plenty of laughs
In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer subverted slut shaming. In Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig and her gal pals recalibrated romance. In The Breaker Upperers, Kiwi funny ladies Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek play just as fast and loose with the jilted woman stereotype.
Should any bunny boiling occur in this film, the perpetrator will be motivated entirely by theatrical effect.
When Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek) discover they are being cheated on by the same man, they turn that emotionally bruising experience outwards, setting up a small business enterprise. Deeply cynical about matters of the heart, the two women team up to make a living out of splitting people up.
If you’re a wimp, but cheap, you can hire them to doorstop your soon-to-be ex – in country and western costume – with a Dear John song. If you’re an even bigger wimp, and more cashed up, they will stage your untimely, violent, demise – then front up, dressed as coppers, to inform your former loved one of the tragic events over a cup of tea.
The two women actively and unashamedly profit from others’ misfortune. There isn’t a shred of sentimentality in their approach, which only adds to the comic absurdity of the situation, especially in the face of the “bereaved” one’s grief.
But while Jen’s bitterness neutralises any underlying feelings of remorse, Mel functions as more of an innocent clown. This adds a complementary layer to their relationship and makes the set-up more relatable.
Mel’s first mistake is to feel sorry for one of their “widows” (played by Aussie Celia Pacquola); before she knows it, she’s invited her out for a drink.
Then she becomes an accidental cougar to James Rolleston’s (the Boy kid, grown up) clueless rugby player after impersonating his new girlfriend.
His dumpee, the ferocious girl gangsta Sepa (Ana Scotney), who doesn’t go anywhere without her equally in-your-face posse, proves particularly difficult to shake.
When past misdeeds catch up with the two protagonists, and their ex-boyfriend reappears, reopening old wounds, Mel and Jen’s friendship begins to strain.
There are times when The Breaker Upperers, written and directed by Sami and van Beek, feels more like an extended sketch routine than a fully-fledged feature film and some of the material is a little obvious.
But there’s something free and fearless about the two very flawed central female characters. They don’t break the rules; they’re oblivious to them.
What really marks The Breaker Upperers apart, however, is the filmmakers’ refreshingly matter-of-fact treatment of female sexuality, presented here as adaptable, explorative, and well, simply a given.
Unlike their English, American and even Australian counterparts, these Kiwi characters are naturally open and upfront about their physical desires. Who would have thunk? The Breaker Upperers opens in cinemas today.
Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek in The Breaker Upperers.