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Breakable You (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

Breakable You


Starring Holly Hunter, Tony Shalhoub, Cristin Milioti, Omar Metwally, Alfred Molina, Isabelle Candelier, Adrian Lester, Brooke Adams, Peter O’Meara, Yumi Iwama, Caroline Aaron, Beege Barkette, Angela Church, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Tamika Sonja Lawrence, Carl Lundstedt, Siena Marino, Doris McCarthy, Adam McLaughlin, Barry Primus and Jeremy Shamos.

Screenplay by Andrew Wagner & Fred Parnes.

Directed by Andrew Wagner.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 120 minutes. Rated R.

How much dysfunction can you fit into one artsy, intellectual New York family of three?

Breakable You seeks to find that out, giving us a view of a mother, father and adult daughter who are constantly sabotaging their own happiness through their neuroses, and yet they are smart, funny and successful. It succeeds in the not very simple job of taking three prickly, self-centered and sometimes outright mean people and turning them sympathetic.

Breakable You is much better than its storyline might leave you to believe.

Tony Shalhoub (hard to recognize with a hipster shaved head) plays Adam. He is a playwright, once the toast of Broadway, but he hasn’t had a hit in years. At this point he is somewhat overshadowed by his long-dead best friend, a cult playwright who has grown in literary stature since his death, at the same time as Adam’s star has fallen. As part of his midlife crisis, Adam has recently left his long-time wife Eleanor (Holly Hunter) for a younger French woman (Isabelle Candelier). He is trying desperately to get his career back on track when shortly before her death, the widow of his old friend shares with him the fact that he had written a completely unseen masterpiece.

Eleanor works as a therapist. She has a thriving practice, but her own personal problems have her feeling judgmental and snapping at her clients. Not that she wants Adam back, she feels the breakup was for the best, but she also is hurt that he is moving on with his life and love before she does. Then she is shocked when Adam’s brother (Alfred Molina), confesses that he has had a massive crush on her from before she even met Adam. At first Eleanor rebukes his advances, but eventually they fall into a tentative relationship.

The last character in this tripod is Adam and Eleanor’s daughter Maud. Maud is sweet and funny but hiding a massive dark side and a history with depression. She is working endlessly on a graduate thesis on morality because she feels immoral herself. She throws herself into a flirtatious relationship with her parents’ stone-faced carpenter Samir (Omar Metwally), who has a tragic hidden past himself. However, when the casual fling becomes much more serious, Maud’s old demons start to take hold.

Breakable You flirts with the urban decadence of Crimes and Misdemeanors-era Woody Allen – a hardened world where evil is rewarded, and goodness is punished – but in the long run it pulls those punches. For the most part (with one major exception) true love wins the day and good things happen to good people. Even the one character who gets away with his deception loses many of the other things he values and must live with the constant knowledge that he is a fraud. And the only two truly good, selfless characters in the film are both dead – one of them died years before the action starts.

However, a series of extremely smart and subtle performances – particularly by Hunter and Milioti – makes Breakable You always very watchable. It’s not the most original screenplay ever, but the movie is a lot better than you may expect.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: March 13, 2018.

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