It goes without saying that the current pandemic has wreaked havoc with the cinema release schedules, with some titles suffering more than others. Big budget or small, star names or unknowns, they’ve all had similar experiences if they’ve decided to stick with a cinema release. So, with its first time director/writer and largely unfamiliar cast, rom-com The Broken Hearts Gallery could easily slip under the radar as it arrives in cinemas this week. And audiences will have missed out.
Its best known name is executive producer Selena Gomez and it boasts one familiar face, Dacre Montgomery, aka Stranger Things’ Billy Hargrove. But the feature debut from Natalie Krinsky, whose career thus far has been in TV, is a charming, funny and uplifting piece of comedy, which happily keeps looking over its shoulder at the past. Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan) loves to hold on to mementos of past relationships: however outlandish they may be, they all hold memories. She simultaneously loses her latest boyfriend and her art gallery job – the two aren’t unrelated – and needs to channel her creativity elsewhere when opportunity presents itself in Nick (Montgomery), who is struggling to convert a disused building into a boutique hotel. For Lucy, however, it has potential as a gallery for all her souvenirs – and those belonging to other people.
It’s a recipe for a traditional rom-com in that you know how it will end up, but it really doesn’t matter. That familiarity is part of the appeal and the fun of the genre, one that Krinsky treats with affection and warmth, but isn’t afraid to toy with as well. There’s a strong sense of nostalgia behind its contemporary façade, with the first half very much in screwball mode a la Bringing Up Baby or What’s Up Doc. Against an affectionate Manhattan backdrop, the extrovert woman leads the way, with the quieter, more unassuming man following in her wake – and a scene with the two of them carrying a sofa through the streets of New York recalls a certain running gag from the Bogdanovich movie. Montgomery has the kind of good looks – and moustache – that would have gone down a storm in the heyday of the matinee idol. Indeed, they’re part of his appeal now as well.
Krinsky’s dialogue is a gift to her cast, especially her two leads: it sparkles, moves along at a rate of knots and is sprinkled with a literary style which is appealingly anachronistic to the ear. Supporting actors get their fair share of her crisply witty script as well, notably Bernadette Peters (Steve Martin’s love interest in The Jerk) as her acid tongued boss and Arturo Castro giving a perfectly judged performance in the small role of Nick’s best friend. Their banter is absolutely on the nail and we could have done with seeing him more often. The same applies to Molly Gordon and Phillipa Soo as Lucy’s two friends/flatmates, her support mechanism with a nice line in no-holds-barred truth. We miss them when they’re not around. Crucially, though, the couple at the centre of the story gel extremely well, although it’s Viswanathan who walks away with the acting honours – captivating, funny and a star-in-the-making turn if ever there was one.
Yes, we know it’s all going to turn out for the best, so the film’s portrayal of the pain that can go with a break-up isn’t as acute as it could have been. But the result is a winning and enjoyable film that joyously manages to deliver both rom and com in equal measure. Don’t let it pass you by.
Romance, Comedy | Cert:12A | Sony Pictures | 11 September 2020 | Dir. Natalie Krinsky | Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Bernadette Peters, Monica Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Arturo Castro.