The Breakup Girl
A lot of movies make it into the many film festivals around the country and the world, and most of them never make it even to art-house theaters. In many cases, that’s well deserved, but sometimes a perfectly good film just falls through the cracks. As a case in point: The Breakup Girl. Writer/director Stacy Sherman has assembled a wonderful cast of underrated comedic actresses for her warm, funny, and thoughtful tale of three sisters making their ways in Los Angeles.
The film made the festival rounds as Claire’s Cambodia, which makes sense in its way, but probably didn’t help when it came time to find a distributor. Claire (Shannon Woodward) is the middle sister, caught between the older Sharon (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and the younger Kendra (India Menuez). None of them are satisfied with their lives. Sharon is married to Steve (Joe LoTruglio), starting a family and remodeling a house, but she feels unfulfilled. Kendra is a struggling actress with a annoying, more successful roommate. And Claire herself is pushing thirty when she gets dumped by her boyfriend after wasting her twenties getting his writing career off the ground while her dreams of investigative journalism languished.
The three of them don’t really get along, but as Claire sinks into her post-breakup funk their mother (Mary Kay Place) pushes Kendra and Sharon to be supportive. And just as they’re all talking, their father (Ray Wise) calls them together to announce that he has cancer and maybe a year or so to live. Not that he’s told their mother, mind you.
Admittedly, it’s not surprising that The Breakup Girl had trouble finding theatrical distribution. There are a lot of moving pieces here, and the plot is spread around too thinly among them to make a fully satisfying story out of any one character. On the other hand, it’s something akin to a tapas approach to comedy, with many small stories that can each appeal to different tastes, and all of them together can be as satisfying as a single main course.
The real enjoyment here is in the interactions between these women. The characters may be thin, but the dynamics of their relationships are complex and nuanced as they grow together over the course of the film. It’s also wonderfully satisfying to see these actresses take their turn in the spotlight. Woodward is almost exclusively known as the straight woman from Raising Hope, and Mclendon-Covey has been the leading lady’s girlfriend in one comedy after another. Getting them out of the supporting cast and into the lead is a welcome change.
The Breakup Girl may have been passed over at film festivals, but a streaming release means we can all get a chance to appreciate its charms.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.
This review also appears at Punch Drunk Critics.