The Breaker Upperers (4 stars)

The Breaker Upperers

LFF 2018: Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami bring personality and warmth to this raucous tale of female friendship

Loud, louche and absolutely hilarious, New Zealand entrepreneurs Jen (Jackie van Beek) and Mel (Madeleine Sami) are one of the funniest and most endearing comedy couples of recent years. That may not be a surprise, when you consider that writer/director/stars van Beek and Sami have long collaborated with director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, What We Do In the Shadows) — who here serves as executive producer — but, still, The Breaker Upperers is a truly impressive achievement.

Long-term thirtysomething friends Jen and Mel run a popular agency which helps people break up with their partners by employing various fake scenarios; everything from pregnancies to kidnap and death. The pair think little of the emotional fallout, until Mel is charmed by teenage client Jordan (a wonderfully naive James Rolleston) and gets embroiled in the life of Anna (Celia Pacquola), who is heartbroken after her husband uses the agency to disappear. These new connections force the sensitive Mel to face up to the realities of her job, and the direction of her life, and threatens her friendship with the far more cynical Jen.

This women behaving badly set-up involves plenty of hilarious, perfectly-pitched set pieces performed by a gung-ho cast which also includes Jemaine Clement as Jen's sardonic lover and fabulous newcomer Ana Scotney as Jordan's acerbic ex Sepa. Standouts include a hallucinated Celine Dion music video, a cop-shop striptease and a jaw-dropping climactic rendition of K-Ci and JoJo's 'All My Life'.

Yet underneath all that raucous behaviour is an expertly observed celebration of female friendship. If it's rare to see such relationships depicted in a warts-and-all fashion on screen, then it's even rarer to see it explored with such bare-faced honesty and warmth. While Jen and Mel may make their living breaking hearts, theirs is a genuine love story.

A film with boundless energy — the improvised nature keeps things moving apace — and lashings of personality, The Breaker Upperers is a joy from start to finish. One of the funniest films of recent years, it's also a welcome reminder that the path to true happiness is entirely what you make it.

Screening on Thurs 11, Fri 12 and Mon 15 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2018. Available to watch on Netflix from 2019 tbc.

The Breaker Upperers

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • New Zealand
  • Directed by: Madeleine Sami, Jackie Van Beek
  • Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie Van Beek, Celia Pacquola, James Rolleston

Mel (Sami) and Jen (Van Beek) run an agency which helps people to break up with their partners by using various fake scenarios. Then Mel falls in love with Jordan (Rolleston), an 18-year-old client. Underneath all the hilarious set pieces, it’s an expertly observed celebration of female friendship and Sami and Van Beek…