Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie Van Beek) are a couple of friends who run The Breaker Upperers, providing a service for individuals who are too afraid to break up with their partners or spouses in person. It is all going swimmingly until they get a job from a young, sweet guy, Jordan (James Rolleston) and Mel gets involved with him.
Around the same time, whilst visiting Jen’s mother, Shona (Rima Te Wiata), for dinner, Jen’s brother, Stan (Brett O’Gorman) tells them that Joe (Cohen Holloway), the ex of both women is back in town. Mel is also beginnings to have reservations about the work she and Jen do.
The Jordan job proves problematic, especially when they meet the fierce Sepa (Ana Scotney), his less than demure partner and her crew. Mel’s misgivings really cause an issue when she decides to go and visit a former victim, Anna (Celia Pacquola). When Anna, who they had told her fiancé was missing, insist on seeing his case file, their ruse is exposed.
Jen is furious and blames Mel, accusing her of being too weak for the job. On the next job, Mel tells the victim that his wife has fallen down a ravine and died. She relays this information in a room full of her friends at her surprise birthday party. She leaves and goes and gets together with Jordan.
Jen, who had been left stranded, comes home to see her and Jordan together. The two friends have a massive falling out, Jen blaming Mel for her and Joe splitting up, and go their separate ways. Jen, pining for Joe still, invites him out to dinner. She tells him she loves him. Joe explains that not only has it been fifteen years, but he has a wife and three children. His life is very different.
Mel has moved in with Jordan and his less than impressed mother (Stacey Te Hau). Morning sickness alerts Mel to the fact that she is pregnant. Jordan has been offered a rugby contract but says he is going to turn it down to take on the responsibilities of fatherhood. Jen enlists the help of Jordan’s ex to break up Mel and Jordan.
Sepa, who is in love with Jordan still, puts together a dance, which Jen joins, to get Jordan back. Mel breaks up with Jordan, realising the relationship does not really work and allowing him to take up the lucrative rugby contract. Jen and Mel repair their friendship and Mel has the baby. They change their business model to both breakups and makeups. The end.
The Breaker Upperers is written and directed by the two stars of the film, Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek. It is a quite good comedy, well directed and well paced. At ninety minutes, if anything, it is a little on the short side for the story they tell. The film jumps straight into the characters, with no unnecessary preamble or build up, jumping straight into a sequence of the two friends doing breakups.
With a good cast of supporting actors as the various people either trying to break or being broken up from, the breakups and those employing the friends for breakups scenes are amusing and well executed. The opening scene, with Celia Pacquola’s Anna crying uncontrollably, is particularly funny.
James Rolleston is brilliant as the sweet but dim Jordan. His easy acceptance of the situation he finds himself in, his chance of playing professional sport dashed by Mel’s pregnancy, showed a nice naivety, coupled with a sense of what is right.
As a first-time feature-length film for the two women, Sami and Van Beek manage to create an engaging and entertaining film. As I said earlier, the film is, perhaps, slightly too short, with certain elements not being able to explore, such as Jen’s relationship with her mother and Mel’s uncertainty with her situation with Jordan and his mother, though these are minor gripes.
Both women are engaging enough and believable enough to create likable and interesting characters that you care about. The script is good, even if in parts it does seem improvised, but the overall story carries it through. The Breaker Upperers is an easy ninety minutes on a Sunday afternoon.