‘Breaker Upperers’ among Netflix’s best offerings

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Featuring a pair of middle-aged besties, and coming all the way from New Zealand, Netflix’s latest original release “Breaker Upperers” is wildly unpredictable.

Self proclaimed life partners, Mel and Jen are small business owners. For a small price of a thousand dollars, they will end any relationship with a wacky scheme. Their break up plots range from impersonating police offices, to staging affairs. Quirky accents, ridiculous costumes, and heartfelt moments make this movie a thoroughly enjoyable watch. 

Directors, screenwriters, and stars Jackie van Beek (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and Madeleine Sami (“Super City”) shine in this film. This is Sami’s directorial debut and van Beek’s third directorial credit. One of the strongest aspects of Breaker Upperers are the characters; Sami and Van Beek created and portrayed women who were well-rounded and relatable, while still being on the edge of satiric. Their writing is on point; the dialogue is witty, quick and conversational, the humor extremely layered. 

In an era where female directors, stars and writers are starting to become more commonplace, this movie is a prime example of what can come from giving voices to all creators. It provides a raw look at what female friendship is, in a completely unromanticized light. There are fights, awkward moments, crude jokes and most of all ugly laughs. Rarely is a female relationship portrayed in such an honest unedited manner. 

Van Beek’s Jen is stone-cold, too scarred from a past relationship to pursue any human connection. Sami’s Mel is an athletic and charismatic bisexual, who is easy going and fun in every way Jen is not. 

The two’s friendship and business began two decades ago when they discovered their shared boyfriend was two-timing them. Since then they have been inseparable life and business partners.                                

All of the side characters are hilarious. Jen’s parents are the extreme of a rich white retired couple, living out their last years in coked-out luxury. Mel’s lover is a dumb millennial, who thinks only in emojis. Their intern is a quiet shell of a woman, who barely leaves any impression at all. 

“Breaker Upperers” has a perfect balance of humor and second-hand embarrassment. There is enough embarrassment to make the viewer look away, but enough humor to keep them engaged. At several points — one involving an 80s-inspired music video — the film is laugh-out-loud funny. The movie’s fresh perspective mixed with the kooky-offbeat humor — a product of the filmmakers’ New Zealand roots, perhaps — makes the film something wholly original and unlike anything currently on Netflix.

While the plot is a formulaic rom-com, a platonic twist keeps it fresh and makes the whole premise seem new. Cliched tropes are funny instead of tired when applied to Mel and Jen. The two main characters even make up in a choreographed group dance number. The movie is certainly nostalgic, but this only adds to an already humorous movie; it does not rely on nostalgia to be enjoyable or funny, a pitfall many Hollywood comedies have today. 

The movie is delightfully detailed, painting a humorous New Zealand that is just foreign enough to be unique, but familiar enough to be relatable. This is currently by far one of the best Netflix original films out, and is a must watch.