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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Breaking Upwards is the latest entry in the genre known as mumblecore. Films in this genre, typically made by filmmakers trying to work through personal/romantic issues by playing them out on screen, are noted for their low budgets, as well as for being whiny and self-indulgent. There is some debate as to the actual definition of a mumblecore picture, but I will rely on the words of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Potter Stewart, who said of pornography, "I know it when I see it."

The movie stars director Daryl Wein and his co-writer Zoe Lister-Jones, and it's characteristically based on their own personal relationship. They (of course) play Daryl and Zoe, who have been dating for four years and realize that things are getting a little stale. Their solution is to take "days off" during which they do not see or speak to one another. Then they become pissed that the days off are actually tearing them apart rather than bringing them closer together. The end.

I don't object to the mumblecore philosophy; I just object to the way it's carried out here. On the basis of this movie, Wein and Lister-Jones do not appear to be talented actors. I found both of their characters to be - you guessed it! - whiny and self-indulgent. They don't give us any reason to care about them. Nor are they much better in the writing department; the screenplay is awkwardly constructed, failing to properly introduce supporting characters or to transition effectively from one scene to the next. The dialogue is wooden, at best.

Breaking Upwards is most notable for brief cameos from actress Olivia Thirlby (Juno) and former "SCTV" co-star Andrea Martin. Otherwise, it is a dull affair, like spending 90 minutes trapped in the company of self-pitying dolts who can't stop bitching about how unhappy they are. No doubt making the film was a therapeutic act for Wein and Lister-Jones. I hope they got something out of it. I sure didn't.

( out of four)

Breaking Upwards is in select theaters, and is also available via IFC On Demand.

Breaking Upwards is unrated but contains adult language, sexuality/nudity, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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