Thursday evening, Sept. 26, The 5th Annual Milwaukee Film Festival (http://mkefilm.org) began with the U.S. premiere of German comedy, "Break Up Man", which released at The Oriental Theater at 6:30 p.m. Directed, produced, and starring Matthias Schweighöfer, "Break Up Man (Schlussmacher)", has been taking Germany by storm, winning the 2013 German Film Audience Award and Romy for Best Movie. The film was introduced by Milwaukee Film Artistic & Executive Director Jonathan Jackson, who thanked the audience, staff, founders, and sponsors for all they do to make the festival happen, adding,
Tonight is about cinema and a really epic party.
"Break Up Man" is the story of Paul Voigt (Schweighöfer), a man who makes a living by breaking up with people in their partner's stead. Paul's career and lifestyle surrounds his unwavering aversion to commitment and romantic ideals, but his life is thrown into a whirlwind when he is sent to deliver the bad news to Toto Kuhlmann (Milan Peschel), who takes the break-up with anything but grace. After a series of Toto's antics, Paul is at his mercy as he needs a driver to take him to break up with eleven people across the country over one weekend. The resulting road trip is an outrageous non-buddy comedy that left its first American audience laughing out loud throughout the film.
This journey mentality is very much present throughout the film and is reflected stylistically through music, lighting, and cinematography. There are several tracking shots of the pair driving through the German countryside, with upbeat pop music playing them along. The film is composed entirely of clear, crisp images of landscapes, clubs, and indoor scenes, making it a visual treat for what might otherwise be everyday scenes. Similarly, there are several aerial shots and extreme zooming moments, bringing attention to the bigger picture of the scene after some more intimate conversations or closer moments between characters. Whether it be through subtler stylistic choices or outright comical exchanges, the audience can't help but be aware of the literal and metaphorical journey the pair take together.
A great deal of the style and story concept is reminiscent of Hollywood's buddy comedy or "bromance". While the central concept of a man working as a break-up delivery system is certainly unique, many other elements of the plot progression circle back to common Hollywood comedies. Much like Todd Phillips's "Due Date" (Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis), "Break Up Man" is the story of two extremely dissimilar men, one of whom is an emotionally unfiltered, juvenile man who relentlessly tries to reach an emotionally shut-down, professional man's soft side (much to the professional's distress and dismay). Unfortunately, much like a Hollywood bromance, Paul's back story was glossed over in a way that wasn't entirely memorable once the credits rolled. There were certainly memorable themes surrounding the two characters' radically different personalities and how they change and grow, but the primary comical performances in the film made these themes secondary, as light comedies tend to do.
You're cold and obviously clogged up with issues. That's why you fart in your sleep.
This being said, the generally weak back story was overshadowed and barely noticeable due to the acting and explosive characters. While Schweighöfer portrays a very together, no-nonsense man, the core of his comedy is in his reactions to Peschel and his zany, bizarre personality. The comedy in general throughout "Break Up Man" is outrageous and bold as Peschel does everything from sing to snuggle as a means of developing his unapologetically open and clingy character. The two have magnetic chemistry on screen and create such strong characters, that audiences leave the theater unable to think of much else. The man who specializes in the business of breakups and his surprisingly insightful, impish companion make for a duo that keeps audiences laughing and makes nearly two hours seem like no time at all.
Love is not for cowards.
So while "Break Up Man" may not provide a vast array of new and exciting styles not found in Hollywood, hilarious performances by the talented Schweighöfer and Peschel more overpower this. "Break Up Man" is a side-splitting, outrageous comedy showing audience how to love, let go, and learn something from those who are different from us. For more information on "Break Up Man", visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1978524/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_5. For more information on the Milwaukee Film Festival, visit http://mkefilm.org.