Directed By Natalie Krinsky
Starring – Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar
The Plot – What if you saved a souvenir from every relationship you’ve ever been in? “The Broken Hearts Gallery” follows the always unique Lucy (Viswanathan), a 20-something art gallery assistant living in New York City, who also happens to be an emotional hoarder. After she gets dumped by her latest boyfriend, Lucy is inspired to create The Broken Heart Gallery, a pop-up space for the items love has left behind. Word of the gallery spreads, encouraging a movement and a fresh start for all the romantics out there, including Lucy herself.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout and some crude references, strong adult language and drug references
– Universal theme. Heartbreak is something that nearly every member of the audience should be able to relate to, and thanks to the movie’s dissection of its many forms and evolving consequences, there’s an inspiring message submerged beneath its indulging quirkiness. For Lucy, that comes in the form of a collection of miscellaneous objects that she must let go of before she can eventually have a romance of her own. Not only is this stance responsibly noble for the dark and ominous direction that this material could’ve taken, but it’s also reminiscent of some of the best romantic comedies of all time, like “High Fidelity” or “500 Days of Summer” without completely ripping off the best in those movies tonal capacities. “The Broken Hearts Gallery” instead fleshes out a compelling narrative, all the while keeping its atmosphere mostly light-hearted, and offers a range in audience appeal that starts and ends with this therapeutic deconstruction of where it all went wrong.
– Charming leads. The movie’s effectiveness rests solely on our investment towards its central protagonists, and thanks to no shortage of blossoming chemistry between them, as well as a commitment to energy that each of them frequently deposit to their roles, the movie’s infectious personality continuously wins over your heart with its feel good narrative. Viswanathan is a revolutionary force here, feeling right at home with a genre and material that bring out the strengths in deliveries and facial expressions, which are practically animated for all that they emote. Montgomery might very well be the lost twin brother of Zac Efron, not only for similar facial features, but also for the brooding exterior, which eventually gives way to a registry in depth that really allows us to open up to the character in the same way his female co-star does. It’s a couple of star-making turns for each of them in a genre that I didn’t expect them to succeed at, and really articulated two well rounded characters who I constantly couldn’t get enough of.
– Subtle artistry. As a debut film director, Krinsky certainly has a future in this business. I say this because of the way her clever editing and experimental framing devices work wonder in conveying the message of what is being captured in each meaningful frame. As expected with comedies, a consistent timing of editing refers to a passing in time, which is meant to visually convey laughter when based on repetition in each scene. This is primarily seen when a character is describing an awkward evening or painful break-up, which comes across as redundant to the other characters around them, zeroing in on a feeling from within that we can recognize because of the uncanny ability to mirror a situation that we’ve all been in with our friends. This is only surpassed by the ingenuity with some complexly layered shots that visually illustrate what’s taking shape internally with each character in question. Initially, Lucy is shot alone for a majority of angles early on, to represent her loneliness and isolation from the world. But as the film persists, the movie’s cinematography has a few clever ways in focusing solely on her and Montgomery’s Nick, and transferring that bond between them that continuously grows closer with each passing second. It’s a distinct vision that adds a lot of prestige to the film’s meaning, and stands as a visual triumph for Krinsky, who exceeds all artistic expectations.
– Tonal maturity. A majority of this film is certainly seen through comedic eyes, but late in the second act there’s a transformation that takes shape, and really help establish stakes and emotional weight in the story that plays into its conflict. What’s highly beneficial is this tonal evolution is completely earned and fully believable with what’s taking shape in the foreground of our story, all the while remaining true to its character movements that never alienates what between them has been previously established. I wouldn’t say that it abandons the comedy, but rather saves it for the moments during this area of the script where they can be further appreciated the most in between a healthy dose of dramatic heft. It granted a smooth sentimentality to the script that further helped to flesh out the romance between Nick and Lucy, and made this anything but a fluffy, forgettable circumstance that rubs too many of these films together in the wrong way.
– Script patience. While predictability is definitely the movie’s biggest flaw, there was some tweaking of the storytelling movements set in motion that I definitely appreciated along the way. For one, the romance between Nick and Lucy is reserved for a time much later than I was expecting, allowing their bond to feel fully fleshed out because of the time that the movie donates to their cause. Aside from this, it saved some expected reveals in subplots, that I easily deciphered, for moments later on in the script, which in turn brought forth a butterfly effect of consequences that sprung from their impact. Their spontaneity very much resonates within the many beats of life that happen in and around any given moment, giving the movie an authentic slice of life feeling that took a series of telegraphed moments, and at least tried to scatter them in a way that wasn’t so obvious.
– Consistent humor. Viswanathan’s level of humor feels geared entirely towards mine, in that it’s not necessarily crude as much as it is brutally honest in garnering the intended effect. Because of such, I was treated to a series of gags and punchlines in the movie that did attain a fine level of comedic effectiveness, even if overall it did fall just short of being my favorite comedy of 2020. What works is the self-deprecating harmlessness that comes in the form of Geraldine’s vulnerability, which often gets the best of her. She doesn’t require bodily humor or gross-out gags to sell her schtick, just impressive comedic timing that outlines a tempo that accentuates her level of personality, and doesn’t push the envelope too often beyond its PG-13 rendering. This wasn’t a bust out loud experience, but one that did provide me with an abundance of laughs, playing into the feel good atmosphere that couldn’t be needed more than at a time like this.
– Solid soundtrack. Though timely and time-stamped if you watch the movie ten years from now, the collection of tracks that make up the movie’s musical influx is full of vibrancy and personality that seem to emulate the distinct set of emotions that they accompany at any given moment. Some examples of such include Billie Eilish’s “Everything I wanted” being inserted during a time of great confusion for Lucy. The soft circumstance of Eilish played against a New York sunset instilled a serenity of poignant remorse for the characters, all the while offering double meaning in the song’s lyrics that vividly paint a picture of what’s transpiring in the foreground of this story. Aside from Eilish, there’s appearances by Selena Gomez, Betty Who, and a variety of fresh-faced artists to the pop complexion sure to shake up your streaming devices, and channel that millennial New Yorker essence that sprinkles itself through the transition sequences in the film.
– Third act blunders. For my money, even at 103 minutes, the film could afford to lose around 10-15 of it during the film’s climax, when some scenes drown on a bit too long for my taste, and redundancy sets in towards padding things out. This costs the movie’s momentum and pacing dearly during those last few movements between the characters, and points to a bigger problem the longer you think about why this movie saddled itself with such an unnecessary conflict in the first place. A simple five minute conversation between characters could’ve easily resolved this without anyone getting their hands dirty, but then we wouldn’t have a need for the cliche’d third act distancing that isn’t just a staple to romantic comedies, but seemingly every other genre in contemporary cinema.
– Predictability. I mentioned earlier that much of the story’s intended direction’s and impactful circumstances feel obviously telegraphed, even early on to the story’s initial beginning’s. Aside from the third act distancing, which feels like it happens too late in this couple’s occasions, their falling in love to heal each of their broken hearts is clearly evident during the movie’s trailer, but somehow topped by a couple of story beats (Mainly the naming of Nick’s hotel) that are hinted at so obviously, and then forced to wait for the eventual clarity that audiences feel five steps ahead of at all times. If the script would’ve taken a few more unconventional chances, then it would’ve helped deviate from a subgenre of films that already oversaturate the formula, but unfortunately, it’s happy borrowing and stitching together a collection of movements from other movies that did it first.
– Cringe moments. The movie couldn’t help itself while indulging in a female young adult cast that brings forth some moments of immaturity in the movie’s dialogue. These instances preserve a crushing blow to the momentum and fluidity of the scene, sounding like a screeching halt on a train with really squeaky breaks for extra emphasis, and convey a few off-character moments that don’t feel particularly geared and written for these distinct set of ladies who, as occasionally immature as they are, do feel a decade too old to be mumbling this absurdity. Beyond this, the movie has two individual moments that were painful for their own reasons. One involved producer and soundtrack artist Selena Gomez being visually represented on a concert ticket during an opening introduction scene that conveys all of Lucy’s collectibles in gigantic form, spread across the Big Apple. The other moment involves a character being mentioned as being from Kenosha, Wisconsin, as a silence overtook the auditorium that my audience was watching this movie in. Obviously not intentional, as production wrapped on this months before the devastating shooting, just one of those moments that time already hasn’t preserved very well on opening night.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-