Taken at face value, “The Broken Hearts Gallery” is a great movie to watch for a Friday night in with the girls, as a respite after a long day or even as background noise for homework.
The approximately two-hour-long movie, released Friday, follows the classic rom-com formula with a bit of a fresh spin. After 26-year-old Lucy Gulliver, played by Geraldine Viswanathan, is dumped by her older, hipster colleague at an art gallery in New York City, she derails on an emotional tailspin, “masturbating and watching videos” for three weeks.
Through almost unrealistic twists of fate, she befriends Nick, played by “Stranger Things” star Dacre Montgomery, an unlikely yet charming love interest. She ultimately takes over his handmade boutique hotel project by erecting her “broken hearts gallery” — a collection of various trinkets and mementos from past relationships.
Interspersed between scenes in the movie are clips of characters discussing lost loves, reminded only by leftover physical reminders. The results are bittersweet, comical and sometimes disturbing.
The film was writer and director Natalie Krinsky’s directorial debut — Krinsky has previously written for television dramas, including Gossip Girl and Grey’s Anatomy.
“The Broken Hearts Gallery” ensues as an extension of Lucy’s affinity for things and their meanings, no matter how crazy or mundane. It also serves as catharsis for both her and those who submit their objects.
The concept is almost original, especially for most American audiences. However, the movie missed the potential for a tip-of-the-hat to the real life version of this gallery: the Museum of Broken Relationships, housed permanently in Zagreb, Croatia with a branch in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the gallery concept feels fresh and relevant, especially in an age where moments are so fleeting and relationships are so temporary.
Lucy has wit and charm to boot, yet actress Viswanathan creates a caricature out of the character that sharply contrasts the performances of Nick and Lucy’s friends — Amanda, played by Molly Gordon, and Nadine, played by Phillipa Soo — which land a bit more authentically.
The new trope of the awkward, imperfect girl who is oh-so-relatable is overdone — her character is witty at best, but annoying most of the time. Lucy flits about New York City as though she’s living off a swollen trust fund, which is unrealistic in contrast to Nick’s financial troubles.
Other aspects of the movie sit on mushy ground: the breakup with her ex Max, played by Utkarsh Ambudkar, doesn’t seem to haunt her the way realistic relationships do. Lucy is instead stalkerish and sometimes crazed, and in the end, her lack of chemistry with Max does not convince viewers that their relationship was anything other than a plot device to fuel the story.
Similarly, many moments are contrived. Lucy’s drama is almost completely self-fabricated, making it hard to sympathize as she wallows in self-pity or shuts others out. In addition, many times when the script attempts to broach deeper topics regarding love and life, the context for these moments is out of place or awkward.
On the other hand, her friends Amanda and Nadine provide fresh entertainment, and their chemistry feels genuine. We are rooting for them as much as they are rooting for Lucy. They are by her side through thick and thin, as evidenced by a scene in which they drunkenly criticize Max to shreds, even comparing their breakup to the pains and cramps of menstruation. In this way, they also function to deliver undertones of female liberation and even misandry, which is hilarious and timely.
Through it all, even while we watch with sometimes eyeball-rolling exasperation as Lucy creates and surpasses her own obstacles, we are rooting for her. She is naïve yet generous, and selfless when it counts. She teaches us to look for art in everything and everywhere, which in the end, is all the more relevant in our fast-paced world today.