Despite being a Hollywood staple it always struck me as odd how prevalent romantic comedies are in cinemas. Not to say they don’t have artistic merit, again Mean Girls is my favorite film of all time, but just that they don’t feel like they ever truly use the medium of cinema’s scope and scale in meaningful ways. Probably going back to how they historically were mostly star vehicles for famous acting duos to play off each other and have a good time. Both that, and their box office dominance have dwindled thanks or because of Netflix and Halmark. The caliber of actors playing in rom-coms is not what it used to be, and they don’t rake in money. That makes it all the stranger to release a rom com with unknown actors during a pandemic when a Chris Nolan movie barley made 10 million dollars.
Written and directed by Natalie Krinsky, The Broken Hearts Gallery follows Lucy, a girl who holds onto mementos from every heartbreak. After a very bad one, and accidentally riding in someone’s car over an Uber she finds Nick, a hotel architect. When Lucy starts bringing her past heartbreaks to the hotel she starts a small gallery for all to bring their damage and let go, to heal. After a strong social media push and Nick losing the backing for his hotel they get pushed apart, but maybe that’s not the end. For, a heartbreak is just the start of a new beginning.
Broken Hearts Gallery is structurally conventional. It’s not a difficult movie to “call,” or predict. It’s also not trying to be. Instead it wants to focus on the idea of holding on, letting go, and healing. All those words feel utterly pretentious when applied to a romcom and they are, yet it reaches for that anyway. The way it does so is interesting, using interludes and cutaways that are either a comedic joke or heartfelt and earnest. It’s an interesting device but could have been used more.
It is not quite as successful at reaching those heights as it is following the romcom playbook, but it’s characters are strong, and that makes up a lot of these movies. Lucy, played by Geraldine Viswanathan (last seen in Bad Education as the student that outed the principal’s illegal doings), skirts the perfect edge between adorkable, earnest, and realistic. Her backstory really helps sell her “this is only a thing in the movies” quirk. Her two roommates played by Molly Gordon and Phillipa Soo have a great chemistry and feel like honest to goodness friends. In fact most of the chemistry between the cast really works. The one time there is no chemistry makes it feel almost purposeful. That chemistry is also the only thing making Dacre Montgomery’s Nick an interesting character, because outside of a bad breakup and case of the broody loner he isn’t much.
The same cannot be said for the cinematography. As strange as it is a thing to say, this movie is beautiful and should be seen in theaters. This is mainly speaking for the wide shots that are so detailed, colorful, or impactful that it is impressive. The bright neon against a cold city aesthic this movie lives in is always striking. Not every shot is like that. It has its clumsy or basic moments, but those feel like the bland cereal part of a marshmallow-filled cereal. You gotta have some basic shot-reverse shot sometimes.
In terms of comedy it is nothing spectacular. It is mostly banter between characters, and since they have chemistry it works. They feel like human comedic moments that don’t stray too far into mumble-core or cringy awkward comedy. There are some great lines but nothing that will stick out.
For a movie that plays it too safe. So safe in fact that the 2nd act breakup feels utterly out of character and the worst part of the film, it tries. The concept of starting a gallery of heartbreaks as art. Give objects a deep connection to show people aren’t alone in pain, is strong. The fact the movie had to say out loud what Lucy’s deal has been the whole time feels too easy, but it’s use is well measured and help make it the uplifting film it is, but it is still centered on very millennial feelings. From the fact the gallery grew from social media, and the focus of grief older generations don’t feel the same, it has a target demographic that it won’t hit in theaters. Despite using its medium well to give scope, beauty, and loneliness it will have to wait and get found when it hits streaming.
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