Netflixable? Kiwi Cute and Clever — “The Breaker Upperers”

“The Breaker Upperers” is a rude and rowdy Kiwi comedy about two friends who run a service that helps people get out of hard-to-end relationships.

Written, directed by and starring by Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek and a crew that have the deadpan drollery and imprimatur of Taiki Waititi — who produced — and Jemaine Clements –who’s in it — these “Upperers” are pretty much guaranteed to amuse, in that “Failure to Launch” way, scheming to trick lovers into doing things at least one member of the couple isn’t down with. At all.

Maybe you’re bored. Maybe you’re too kind to end things the old fashioned way. Maybe you’re a bloody coward who can’t face confrontation or its consequences.

Never fear, Jen (Van Beek) and Mel (Sami) are here to role play, do the dirty work, take charge and take your money as they lie, bully or do whatever it takes to get the message across and the break-up finalized.

They are, the bossy and 40ish Jen assures one and all, “simply guiding two souls towards inevitability.” No sense wasting months or years making a break when these two can come to He Who Must Be Jilted’s door and deliver a singing (C&W), stinging telegram, ensuring that you’re done-baby-done.

Disguised as cops to tell Anna (Celia Pacquola) that her lover’s gone missing after a swimming accident seems a little extreme. But sure, whatever it takes to help “people escape dysfunctional relationships” is what they’ll do.

Only Jen, bitter over a breakup from her early 20s, is the one who is really into it. Mel, bisexual, younger and still into the idea of falling in love, may not have her heart wholly committed to what they do.

Anna’s case is the first place this comes to light. A dopey teen rugby player and food deliverer named Jordan (James Rolleston) is another test.

When Jen’s ex Joe moves back, married with a wife and three kids, and 30something Mel feels the urge to erase boundaries with first one client, whom she befriends, and another, who comes on strong enough to give her the tinglies, trouble comes to Olde Auckland and “the past” will come back to bite them both on the bum.

The banter, as you might expect, crackles with cuteness.

“Who’s this?” quizzes Mel, nicknamed “Melon,” who starts warbling a singing imitation.

“Prince? Kermit?”

“Nooo, that’s Celine DION!”

“That sounds like a sea lion being strangled!

“Yeah, that’s what she sounds like.”

There’s coke-snorting over at Jen’s Mum’s house — well, they hope it’s cocaine — and the “cop” disguises blow up on them when a real cop, and a lesbian to boot, thinks they’ve shown up as her birthday “strippers” present. And the duo must cope with a lot of Maori anti-“white girl” rage as they get to know Jordan’s angry, assertive not-quite-ex (Ana Scotney, fierce and hilarious) and her Maori posse who will not take being dumped without violence.

The fact that Mel’s Maori isn’t the help you’d expect.

Can this business survive? Can Mel and Jen make things work, as a team? Or, you know, “bi-curious?” Just how much fakery can you get away with on a tiny island nation with its compact, laid-back populace?

“See you around!”


“I will…see you around. It’s New Zealand!”

If you’ve liked “What We Do In the Shadows,” “Eagle vs. Shark” and anything with “Wilderpeople” in the title, you’re on the same wavelength as these “Breaker Upperers,” even if it’s hard to believe this lot gave us more Hobbit movies and America’s Cup defeats than we’d care to remember.

Rating: unrated, rude and a little raunchy

Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie Van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola and Ana Scotney

Credits: Scripted and directed by Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:22


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.