Breaking Up [1997]

Steve (Russell Crowe) and Monica (Salma Hayek) make a dreadful couple. Something about Monica, a teacher, turns Steve, a photographer, into an insensitive jerk. Steve's behavior makes Monica clingy and hysterical. When the romantic "dramedy" Breaking Up opens, Steve and Monica are doing just that--breaking up. But every time they break up, one of them breaks down and calls the other to suggest, "Let's get together for dinner and talk." By now, they're so hot for each other that they tumble right into bed. As Monica puts it, "As the relationship has deteriorated, we f*** like monkeys!" Breaking Up is a very real portrait of an addictive love affair that strikes a decidedly familiar chord. How many of us have been through unhealthy relationships like this one? Crowe and Hayek are so credible that the movie is most compelling to watch. Their good times are achingly sweet. (When Crowe proposes marriage to Hayek in the back of a taxi, the heart of every female viewer is guaranteed to melt.) But can the good times make up for the bad? Using a mixture of filming techniques--montages, monologues, on-street interviews, plus straight-out dramatic scenes--director Robert Greenwald (The Burning Bed), and Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter Michael Cristofer (The Shadow Box), create a provocative, intimate, and erotic anatomy of the quintessential destructive relationship. --Laura Mirsky

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