The 5th Annual Milwaukee Film Festival opened with the U.S. premiere of Matthias Schweighöfer’s German hit comedy Break Up Man, otherwise known as Schlussmacher. It may be easy to understand the success of this film because of its light comedic approach and the chemistry between the two lead actors. However, the film ultimately falls short due to the formulaic and predictable road trip narrative.
Schweighöfer not only directs the film but he also stars in the lead role as Paul Voigt, a man who is more committed to his unusual line of work than he is to his relationship. He works for a professional break up agency, an agency that sends associates like Paul to assist a client to break up with their significant other. When we’re introduced to him early in the film, we’re immediately aware that he’s good at what he does as he tries to impress his boss so he can receive a major promotion.
Paul’s life takes a sharp turn when he has to break the news to Thorsten “Toto” Kuhlmann (Milan Peschel) that Toto’s girlfriend Kati wants to end their relationship. This unexpected news proves to be heartbreaking and sends Toto into depression. After a series of suicide attempts, Paul has no option other than to keep an eye on Toto for Toto’s own safety. Due to an unfortunate incident, Paul loses his license and has to rely on Toto to drive him to eleven different locations throughout the country so he can meet with clients and carry on with his break up business as usual.
The road trip that ensues unfortunately enters all-too-familiar territory of the road trip narrative as the polar opposites are forced to spend time together due to unfortunate circumstance. The narrative is extremely reminiscent of John Hughes’ 1987 classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and most recently, Todd Phillips’ similar structured road trip comedy Due Date. Much like Steve Martin and Robert Downey Jr. in those films, Matthias Schweighöfer portrays the straight-laced and often cynical character that’s on a mission for his own benefit but ends up learning something valuable along the way as he starts to bond with his polar opposite, who’s portrayed in this film by Milan Peschel, someone who’s a bit more unattractive but impossible to hate due to his likeability and buffoonery.
Despite the fact that the film can easily be compared to the familiar narratives of Hollywood road trip comedies, Break Up Man does manage to elicit a few laughs that are trickled throughout its running time due to the chemistry between Schweighöfer and Peschel. Their chemistry elicits humor because of Schweighöfer’s reactions to Peschel’s strange and sometimes outlandish antics. For a comedy like this to work even in the slightest, it’s essential for the chemistry between the two leads to be nearly impeccable and thankfully the chemistry works.
Because of its formulaic structure, It was far too easy to predict how the journey was going to end before the film even reached its third act. I was expecting at least a few surprises but ended up being disappointed because of the lack of refreshing elements despite the film having full potential to be a refreshing spin on the genre. It’s truly a shame, considering the premise of Break Up Man should be far more refreshing and darkly funnier than it actually is.