Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Break-Up (2006) [PG-13] ***

Mismatched couples like Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) are very common, so The Break-Up contains some valuable lessons for all of us. As we observe Brooke and Gary, we note that they prefer very different lifestyles. Brooke lives a planned, structured, scheduled lifestyle. She approaches her life as though it is work, a series of tasks to be accomplished, and she mentally checks them off when they're done. Brooke’s secret motto is I can only play when my work is done, and, of course, since her work is never done, she can never play. Gary, on the other hand, approaches his life as though it is play; he lives a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow lifestyle, and tasks don't get accomplished until the last possible moment, if at all. Gary’s secret motto is I can play anytime, and this is true whether he is doing his day job - entertaining customers as a Chicago tour guide - or playing a videogame, hosting a strip-poker game in the condo, or hanging out at a local bar.

During courtship, Brooke and Gary saw the other person's lifestyle as charming, quirky, and completely different from their own lifestyle. However, when they bought a condo and set up housekeeping together, what was charming became irritating and frustrating. Brooke began to view Gary as frivolous, someone who needed to grow up, get serious and stop playing around; Gary began to view Brooke as a killjoy, someone who was continually harshing his mellow, someone who needed to lighten up and enjoy life. What began to creep into their relationship was contempt for the other person’s lifestyle. And relationship psychologists have identified contempt as the emotion most strongly associated with future divorce.

So Gary and Brooke's relationship was doomed from the start. Changing one of our own behavioral traits, which are driven by our personality type, is really hard, but changing someone else's is nearly impossible; just ask anyone who's ever tried to get a significant other to put the toilet seat down. It's infinitely less stressful to find someone with the same personality type lifestyle, and build a relationship on that foundation. In fact, having read a recent interview in which Jennifer Aniston said she took three-minute showers and brushed her teeth in the shower to avoid wasting water, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Jennifer Aniston really does view her life as work - she certainly seems to view her acting career as work. For proof, just look at her face on her movie posters and DVD covers. Typically she is frowning or scowling; rarely is she smiling. In fact, lifestyle differences may well have played a part in the real-life Aniston-Vaughn break-up. Sometimes Life does imitate Art. 

Labels: comedy, drama, romance  
Internet Movie Database   
Metacritic 45/100   
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=50, viewers=64)  

NOTE: The most popular personality type technology is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI uses four scales: (1) Energizing (Extraversion / Introversion), (2) Gathering information (Sensing / INtuition), (3) Decision-making (Thinking / Feeling), and (4) Lifestyle (Planned = Judging / Go-with-the-flow = Perceiving). My personality type blog.

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