Writer, director and star Matthias Schweighofer’s outrageous buddy/romantic comedy, The Break-Up Man, has the second highest grossing film to hit German cinemas there this year and is sure to be one of the most popular films at this year’s Audi Festival of German Films. While certainly not short on gags, Schweighofer’s second feature has inconsistencies with the characterizations and peculiar stylistic choices, but remains an amusing crowd-pleaser with a good heart.
The Break-Up Man is a wild ride, following a man named Paul Voigt (Schweighofer), a handsome and ambitious high-flyer who has blossomed into his exclusive company’s best ‘relationship ender’. He brings disappointing news to others while living in empty, emotionless luxury, unable to make his own relationships work. When Paul makes an unexpected connection with the unlikeliest of characters, Toto (Milan Peschel), a suicidal broken-heart unable to accept his new single status, he agrees to allow Toto to be his driver and accompany him on a company trip to bring up 1000 break-ups (pointlessly set up to feel against-the-clock) and secure desired company Partnership.
Though the performances from the two leads are strong and a lot of the odd-couple antics provoke laughs (even if it is at times in disbelief that the film is ‘going there’), The Break-Up Man does have its flaws. The desire to entertain is clear but results are hit and miss. It is hard to decipher whether this is exclusively a German brand of humour, but with the escalating extremity of the situations, in familiar fashion to American buddy/road comedies, this has clearly been tailored for an international audience.
The extreme differences between the central pair are established in a manner that also feels forced. It is hard to believe that Toto is both a loud, bumbling buffoon of such wild proportions and a poetic, romantic voice-of-reason. He possesses unique wisdom, evidently in love with ex-girlfriend and caring deeply for her daughter, but in the tale of two extremes his clingy characteristics overshadow the other. Instances like some his manners in a buffet hall, his inability to sleep unless he shares a bed with someone (leading to multiple night-foolery jokes) and the highly convenient revelation of an unlikely former profession, tidily partners with Paul’s strict adherence to professionalism, and the cold and unappreciative demeanor that Toto draws out of him.
The music cues, which include quite a few English-language pop hits, are on the nose and the repetitive aerial panning shots to show off the Berlin cityscape. For a comedy it is an expensive-looking one, but with all the fancy hotels, clubs and cars that adorn the production, no opportunity to throw in product placement goes to waste.
There is commendable warmth to the film and for all of the cynical and pessimistic ideals raised - a surprisingly dark turn when the mounted drama hits its peak – it does conclude on a predictable but satisfyingly upbeat note.
It has its heart in the right place, if indulging with kitchen-sink silliness, and it is for this reason that it gets a pass. But only just.
[rating=2] and a half
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
The Break-Up Man will be screening as part of the Audi Festival of German Films, which presents an audacious collection of contemporary German cinema, celebrating the rich diversity of one of Europe’s most dynamic and creatively renowned cultures.
Showcasing 45 award-winning films and documentaries from inspiring thrillers to wry comedies and critically lauded feature dramas, the Festival will take place across 8 cities throughout the first two weeks of May, and, for the first time, will include Newcastle and Byron Bay.
SYDNEY: 30 April - 14 May Chauvel Cinema, Palace Verona MELBOURNE: 1 - 15 May Palace Cinema Como, Kino Cinemas BRISBANE: 3 - 9 May Palace Centro NEWCASTLE 4 - 5 May Tower Cinemas CANBERRA: 7 - 12 May Palace Electric Cinema ADELAIDE: 8 - 13 May Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas PERTH: 9 - 13 May Cinema Paradiso BYRON BAY: 10 - 12 May Palace Byron Bay