There’s no disputing the necessity and timeliness of The Breaker Upperers, a female-led comedy, aimed squarely at getting groups of women together, writes Darren Bevan. 

Fresh from success on the international circuit and at SXSW, Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami play Jen and Mel, a couple of long-term mates who have an agency that essentially breaks couples up, because those involved are too scared to do it themselves.

Business is good, and Jen’s approach is to never let it get personal.

However, things start to rupture between the two of them. It’s further exacerbated when Mel starts dating James Rolleston’s lacking-in-smarts Jordan. 

The Breaker Upperers’ short run time helps, because, in parts, areas of this film feel like an extended sketch show thrown together.

The general malaise which settles in to The Breaker Upperers is more prevalent when scenes don’t centre on Sami and van Beek’s characters.

In between the hitherto rarely-seen take on female friendship delivered by The Breaker Upperers, there are some high points. Sami, in particular, delivers a gutsy performance that drops the laughs with ease; van Beek’s more of a straight man act to this, but it’s herein the problem with The Breaker Upperers lies.

The simple cold hard fact of the matter is that everyone within is a character to varying degrees.

It means that when the emotional pull is supposed to come, it doesn’t resonate as strongly as it should.

It’s not majorly disparaging, just disappointing that there’s potential here that feels lost in translation – and cameos from the likes of Rima te Wiata as Jen’s sex-obsessed hoity-toity mother and a sequence involving a 90s Celine Dion karaoke ballad means there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. 

Rolleston tries to play fast and dumb with Jordan, and a comment midway through the film as he gets a lift back home with his mum and beau in tow is genuinely one of the most scabrous and hilarious sentences uttered in the history of New Zealand cinema. 

But that’s the issue here – the humour is too few and far in between.

At its heart, The Breaker Upperers simply wants to be loved.

It doesn’t want to be rejected like its suitors and yet it never quite offers a compelling enough reason to make it past the honeymoon period.

The Breaker Upperers

Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Rima Te Wiata

Directors: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek

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