Movie Review: Breaking Upwards
"You should go to this screening tonight, Jessie. it's right up your alley," my amazing boss offered while downing his daily breakfast of diet coke and movie blog sites.
"Cool, what's it about?" I half-ass asked, knowing full well I'd go almost anywhere for free.
"It's a new indie about a couple in New York. Made on the cheap - exactly your thing. I'll get you on the list with a plus one."
"Perfect!" I thought, thinking of an evening filled with salty popcorn and emotional angst and free of any kind of physical exercise.
Although I didn't get to my cardio last night, watching co-protagonists Zoe and Daryl storm through the streets of Brooklyn in Breaking Upwards left me both exhilarated and exhausted. The movie begins as the hip, young couple are at their highest peak of banality -- the all-too-familiar four-year "how do you want your eggs; what do you want for dinner; do we really have to have sex again this week?" mark.
Instead of calling it quits, the quirky twosome opt to break up for a few days a week in an attempt to use the outside world to spice up their relationship. The plot thickens as the two learn that the grass is not always greener on the single side, and it's revealed that our beloved "four eyed monster" is nothing but two people clearly not on the same page.
With it's tight budget, unstructured plot, and heavy performances, this film can easily be (mis)labeled "mumblecore". Though the performances of this film -- the real gut of it -- are beyond any kind of label. The "issues" the characters go through are your issues but balance perfectly on the line between introspection and entertainment. The ensemble cast really spreads the love, giving ever actor (regardless of screen time, box office draw, etc.) equal screen presence. Each one gets to be the comic relief, the sultry sex kitten, the overly analytical product of liberal therapy culture.
When the guerrilla-style of shooting works it totally works but sometimes, especially when we're not on the bustling streets of Brooklyn, the amateur camera work was doing little to highlight the enormous performances. And for the record, there was no mumbling. The characters spoke truthfully, brilliantly, and very clearly.
Like most indie movies nowadays, the idea behind Breaking Upwards sounds a little more appealing than the actual film. A cute, young artist dude gets a couple of his other cute, young artists dudes and together they dig up all the cash they can squeeze from the pockets of their skinny jeans and -- 35 cases of PBR later -- the next indie smash is born (if it, like, has time to come out of the womb or whatever).
Although I am the target audience for these types of homemade projects, my skepticism takes over when the biggest selling point of the movie is how small the budget was. Especially in today's film market when the phrase "independent film" is as ubiquitous as "ok, SEXT ya later!". The Independent film genre can mean anything from Little-Miss-Juno-Greek Weddings to this mornings Youtube hit about the "dog that fucked that sheep while fucking the peanut butter sandwich."* Breaking Upwards' independence falls somewhere in the middle of all this, in the place where real people make real movies. The back story of how this movie came to be should be just that. The film itself deserves to be center stage.
After the credits rolled, Daryl Wein, the movie's director, actor, editor, (and, if it was a true indie, probably craft service assistant) earnestly announced "Thank you so much for coming, we never in a million years expected any of this". After watching Breaking Upwards this film's quick transition from offbeat indie to instant classic seems anything but unexpected.
Breaking Upwards opens today at Laemmle's Sunset 5.
Review by Jessie Kahnweiler