Broken Hearts Gallery has a secret weapon: Geraldine Viswanathan.
Well, maybe it’s not such a secret because the Australian star has been winning over Hollywood in the past two years.
Now she’s the lead in this new millennial rom-com and she crushes every moment she’s on screen – which, happily for us, is all the time. Choosing to cast her is absolutely Broken Hearts Gallery’s best decision.
Charmed with an abundance of charisma, the wide-eyed and dynamic Viswanathan (Blockers, Bad Education, Miracle Workers) makes you fall in love with her character Lucy, even if you can’t fall in love with the romance at the centre of his rom-com.
Lucy is a twenty-something aspiring gallery curator with a tendency to collect mementos from all her exes, unable to let anything go. Her room is cluttered with knick-knacks of no actual value – it’s Marie Kondo’s nightmare. It’s only one step away from appearing on Hoarders.
On the same night she is dumped by her boyfriend Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar) and fired from her assistant job, in one of those implausible meet-cutes, she accidentally hops into Nick’s (Perth native Dacre Montgomery) Prius, mistaking it for an Uber.
Nick is a loner sort who has been renovating a former YMCA into a boutique hotel for five years, and his financing is about to run out.
Despondent over her latest break-up, Lucy is convinced by Nick to let one piece of Max go – a tie, which Nick hangs on a wall in his not-yet-hotel and Lucy, in a flash of inspiration, writes “Broken Hearts Gallery” on top.
From there, a pop-up gallery is born.
The idea is that people with emotional baggage from their previous relationships have somewhere to let go of their physical souvenirs, and the Broken Hearts Gallery becomes a sensation, scoring tens of thousands of social media followers and an article in New York Magazine.
You know, in the way that only happens in a brightly coloured rom-com.
There are genre tropes galore in Broken Hearts Gallery, and it certainly loves a montage. Some of those familiar beats are comforting and what you want out of a rom-com.
Like Lucy’s sassy friends, played by Phillipa Soo and Molly Gordon, both of whom crackle onscreen. In fact, the most winning chemistry in the film is among the three women. It absolutely feels like they’ve been friends since they were teens.
There’s Nick’s one friend, Marcos (Arturo Castro), who manages to out-charm Nick in that way which makes you wonder why Marcos isn’t the romantic lead of his own movie.
But then there are the ones that frustrate, like the trope of Lucy and Nick being those young New Yorkers who don’t seem to have a regular income stream and isn’t particularly concerned about paying rent or getting a job.
But the dialogue, from writer and first-time director Natalie Krinsky, is witty and referential – nods to the college admission scandal and Charlie Kaufman come thick and fast – and it has a pitter-patter beat that makes Broken Hearts Gallery feel light even when its overlong run-time starts to make the whole thing sag in the final stretch.
Its weakest link – besides some clumsy editing choices – is that the romance at the heart of it isn’t particularly persuasive. You root for them, but only because you know you’re supposed to.
Perhaps it’s the fact Nick’s character is very underwritten or perhaps it’s that Montgomery’s low-key energy doesn’t match the irrepressible vibrancy of Viswanathan. They still have chemistry, but it also feels as if Viswanathan could create chemistry with anyone.
Viswanathan really is a rom-com heroine for a new generation. Her screen presence and verve are so commanding. She commits on a physical level, in a way that rom-com goddesses like Meg Ryan did, while handling the more dramatic beats with finesse.
Viswanathan outclasses the material, but anytime she’s in something, we’re here for it.
Broken Hearts Gallery is in cinemas from today (excluding Victoria)
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