The Break-Up Movie Analysis

6 June 2016

The film starts off with the protagonists’ encounter in a baseball tournament. Invitation communication begins with Gary asking Brooke if she would like to have a hotdog. On relationship meaning level, it reflects Gary’s interest in knowing Brooke. By the end of the tournament, Gary tries to ask her out, exploring the possibilities for a relationship with her. Despite Brooke calling him “crazy”, she still chuckles and responds to Gary’s pick-up lines, hinting that Brooke is not totally uninterested. It is quickly followed by the opening credits with intimate photos that captured the intensifying communication stage between the protagonists. Their long term commitment takes the form of cohabitation, thus completing the escalation phase of the romantic relationship. After which it goes straight to the topic “The Break-up”, which showcases how the navigating phase foiled, resulting in the deterioration phase.

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The navigating phase starts off with the couples inviting their families over for a dinner. Introducing each other family members suggest that Gary and Brooke are working on this long term relationship together. However, things did not work out as expected and it soon resulted in relationship deterioration. The dispute sparked off when Brooke requested for twelve lemons but Gary only bring home three. Soon, they side-track from the issue and they both tries to one up each other. Brooke refuses to acknowledge that Gary had a long day at work and he wants a short rest.

Gary fails to realize that Brooke has also worked all day, cleaned the condo and spent the past hours preparing for dinner. The couple fails to understand the other’s perspective and their lack of empathy for one another continues to anger them both. Brooke then engages in “gunnysacking”, whereby she stores up the grievance of preparing the dinner herself.

After the dinner, Brooke says “I’m gonna go do the dishes”, but Gary who is preoccupied with his video game, is not mindful of the relationship level meaning. Brooke wants Gary to help out to show appreciation for her effort and that he cares about her. However, Gary disregarded her feelings by responding, “Why would I want to do dishes?” To complicate the matter, Brooke uses abstract examples of lemons, flowers and dishes to illustrate her point, which Gary could not understand. Losing her patient, the
“gunnysack” burst, leading to a full-blown argument. They used the “kitchensinking” tactic, bringing up all the past grievances. Brooke criticizes Gary for not taking her to the ballet and his lack of novelty.

When Gary reminds her that they went to a football game recently, Brooke feels that she is always the one accommodating to him. Opposing to the equity theory, Brooke sees herself investing more than her partner when she evaluated the equity in terms of housework and Gary’s contribution to the relationship. This makes her resentful and angry, thus eroding the relationship satisfaction. On the other hand, Gary measures the fairness based on financial contribution, “I bust my ass to be the best tour guide in the city so that I can support both of us and hopefully you don’t have to work one day.” However, Brooke rebuts him, “I want to work.” Clearly, neither of them acknowledges the other party’s contribution, thus creating a disconfirming climate. To exacerbate the matter, both started name-calling and finally, it ends off with Brooke bellowing, “I am done. I really don’t deserve this” and they both exit the communication.

The above communication could be improved if Gary avoids literal listening and engage in relational listening, while Brooke can be more direct and open with him, and practises bracketing peripheral issue instead of “kitchensinking”. They should show empathy for their partner, and give interpersonal confirmation by endorsement. Instead than exiting completely, the protagonists could take a time out and bring the issue back to the table when both parties are ready.

However, instead of coming to a resolution, they enter the social support process by telling their friends about their problems. (This shows that Gary and Brooke lack of communication with each other and might possibly lead to a breakup.)From their conversation, we could infer the conflict management style the protagonists predominately adopt. Brooke seems to take on the competing style as she puts the blames on Gary, hoping that Gary will change and “he’s gonna come home and apologize.” Initially, Gary avoided conflict by moving into the living room.

He then wilfully irritates Brooke with his behaviours, expressing his disagreement in an indirect manner that shuts down discussion. This puts them in a demand-withdrawal sequence, where Brooke makes demand on Gary to apologize, and Gary avoids it by withdrawing. As they each “punctuate” the cause of the conflict differently, they blame the other party for their behaviours.

However, when Gary tries to salvage the situation, Brooke makes it difficult by embarrassing him publicly during the couple bowling competition. They even attack each other family members by using the information disclosed in their earlier stage of the relationship, thus further escalating the problem. In this situation, the protagonists could strive for a win-win situation by adopting collaborating tactic. This would require them to initiate problem-solving, stay on the topic, and inquire about the partner’s feeling.

During the game night, Gary insults Brooke, “you got the nuts part down” and Brooke retorts back, “You can’t do anything right.” Throughout the dispute, they used “You” language instead of “I” language, which made them more defensive towards each other. If Gary uses “l” language to own his judgement and feelings, Brooke might have responded differently because she would have felt less attacked.

During the discussion on selling their condo, Gary attempts to dominate by using control communication. He wants Brooke to move out and compensate him for the labour he did around the condo. This prompts Brooke to be defensive because on relationship level meaning, Gary thinks that he has greater contribution than her. Instead, they could have built a supportive climate by being problem orientated.

Finally, the condo is sold, but Brooke, still hoping for reconciliation, buys Gary a concert ticket. However, Gary overlooked the relationship level meaning and he fails to show up. Gary only came to realization when Brooke breakdown emotionally and tells him explicitly how she felt in the relationship. During a chat, Johnny points out Gary’s blind area; Gary always had his guard up, and he had never opened his heart to Brooke. Gary decides to win Brooke back by offering to compromise and make changes but it was all too late. The protagonists went separate ways, and sometime later, they meet again by chance. The last scene portrays them in the resurrection process, as they moved ahead without each other. All in all, if they come clean with their feelings and work towards a resolution right from the start, they might not end with a breakup.

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