New Zealand has been providing us with some of the best off-beat comedy for years now. First the comedy-folk stylings of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ (aka Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement), and more recently Taika Waititi; the kiwi director who went from indie to the big-time, recently directing ‘Thor: Ragnarok’.
‘The Breaker Upperers‘, from dynamic directing, writing, and acting duo Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, is definitely cut from the same cloth, and fans of Waititi’s off-kilter and quirky comedy will find themselves comfortably at home in the company of Mel and Jen, the so-called ‘Breaker Upperers’ of the film’s title. Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek) run a business in which they assist people in ending their relationships through scenarios ranging from ‘the other woman’ to ‘missing person’.
With characters that are equal parts abhorrent and charming, and treading the fine-line between witless and witty, ‘The Breaker Upperers‘ is heart-warming, rambunctious, whip-smart and utterly delightful. At a pacey 80-something minutes, it absolutely zips along. Sami and van Beek have believable and endearing chemistry and their genuine friendship is something which provides a constant grounding for the various hijinks along the way.
Perhaps the most “Waititi-esque” thing about this film is the side characters, who manage to almost steal the show. The hapless Jordan (played by James Rolleston, who also featured in Waititi’s ‘Boy‘) delivers one of the funniest lines of any film this year whilst in the car with his mother and Mel, and the feisty Ana Scotney as Sepa absolutely shines in every scene she has. Familiar faces also crop up with Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Rima Te Wiata cutting a caricatural figure as Jen’s coke-sniffing mother, and the aforementioned Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement playing a Tinder date (genuinely he is credited as that).
This is, however, Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek’s show; the powerhouse pairing acting, writing and the directing the hell out of this film. Its commentary on expectations of women, particularly in relationships is wonderfully well observed, and the delivery and execution of the comedy is played to perfection. These are certainly two to watch, and it would be great to see them break out of the indie circuit like Waititi.
‘The Breaker Upperers’ is a little gem of a movie, outrageous yet endearing, hilarious yet heart-warming, and with some star-making performances. As with any comedy, it might not tick all the boxes for everyone, and in fact, the jokes sometimes wear a little on the thin side heading towards the final act, but fans of the ‘Conchords’, and of course Waititi will find much to love here.
Directed by: Madeleine Sami & Jackie van Beek
Starring: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celina Pacquola