There’s a good chance you’ve now been introduced to the New Zealand formula of comedy. It goes like this: take guileless characters with average to little talent and no pretentions to grandeur, for whom the mundane elements of the world provide as much fascination as the lofty. They’re either earnest to a fault or bad liars, and they’re prone to a bit of loneliness. It’s a model that is the antithesis of the familiar heroic journey of Hollywood classicism – which is what makes it so refreshing. If you came by way of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, 2016’s brilliant indie Hunt for the Wilderpeople, or the MCU’s Thor: Ragnarok, the common element is auteur Taika Waititi. On The Breaker Upperers, Waititi is in the producer’s seat while previous collaborators Madeline Sami and Jacki van Beek take the lead as writer/directors and stars. Which makes sense, as this is a movie with a particularly feminine point of view.
Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek) are best friends and partners in an agency that charges to assist people in breaking free of their romantic others. They offer a variety of packages; they may just make a strongly worded phone call (the cheaper option), or they may take on the role (albeit a bit clumsily) of the pregnant mistress, the new lover in the act, or the police delivering bad news. It’s done with ruthless efficiency, and while the cynical Jen is content to shrug off the cruelness of their methods, it’s starting to wear on Mel, who will go to somewhat inappropriate lengths in her desire for quality companionship.
Like the films of Waititi, The Breaker Upperers takes a tone that’s got one foot planted in reality, and the other in goofiness and parody. It’s frequently hilarious, and often unashamedly (and blush-inducingly) forthright about female sexuality. A talented ensemble cast rounds out the comic performances (of particular note is the talented Ana Scotney, who steals the show as a fierce, jilted, hip-hop culture Samoan).
If you’ve enjoyed other Kiwi comedies, and don’t mind a bit of feminine raunch, The Breaker Upperers is definitely worth checking out.