In 2017, the museum of broken relationships came to Los Angeles and quickly became a phenomenon, encouraging people to donate objects to the museum and share their stories of former lovers. What a terrific idea for a romantic comedy. Natalie Krinsky, in her writing and directorial debut, highlights the lingering trauma from past relationships while showing us how two people can just as easily fall in love. With sharp dialogue constantly crackling and a young cast having a great time riffing through scenes grounded in naturalism, this is a light-hearted romantic comedy that will endear you over and over again.
We meet Lucy Gulliver (Geraldine Viswanathan, an absolute delight) as she is broken up with by her high school boyfriend. As her friends comfort her, they notice that Lucy is keeping memorabilia in a shoebox from all the boys she has dated. While they encourage her to toss the crap out, Lucy is reluctant to let go as each item represents a different stage in her life.
Cut to the present day where Lucy, now a fully grown hipster living in Brooklyn, is dating the handsome Max Vora (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who just so happens to be the gallery director where Lucy works as a gallery assistant. Lucy is ecstatic about the relationship, but her friends caution her that she is becoming too attached. Twelve hours later, Lucy walks home, crying into the tie she took from him. What happened? At a gallery function, Max is caught cozying up to an old girlfriend, shaking Lucy to her core. The gallery’s owner Eva Woolf (Bernadette Peters), tells Lucy to introduce Max before he addresses the attendees, and, well, anyone who has seen Bridget Jones’ Diary will know how this goes. After humiliating herself on stage, Max ends things, and Lucy is heartbroken.
As she stumbles home, Lucy gets into a car stopped at a traffic light, which she thinks is her Uber but belongs to Nick (Dacre Montgomery). He tries to tell Lucy in between her sobs that he isn’t her driver, but upon hearing her recollection of the night’s events, he drives her home anyway. They meet again one night when Nick, eating solemnly in a restaurant after being served an eviction notice, sees Lucy following Max and his girlfriend into the same restaurant. He scoops her up quickly before she can confront Max and takes her to the hotel he is building out of an old YMCA. She hangs Max’s tie on the unfinished wall, marking the significance and duration of the relationship, and the Broken Hearts Gallery has begun. They start to turn the under-construction, yet soon-to-be-shut-down, hotel into a pop-up space, and as Lucy starts to post on social media requesting people to tell their stories along with donating an item, the phenomenon grows.
First, we need to talk about Geraldine Viswanathan, who is electric in this film. She goes into every scene with sharp comedic timing that rivals Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz. It would be easy to think that someone like Lucy should get over her past relationships and throw away all the tchotchkes that line her bedroom over the years, but Viswanathan makes Lucy believable. In one of the film’s heavier moments, Lucy takes Nick to meet her mother in a home for the elderly. The tender scene highlights Lucy’s need to hold on to things while shifting tone quickly to Lucy and her mother dancing to Nick’s piano playing. It’s a beautifully realized moment, and Viswanathan makes all the emotion of someone so vivacious, in a time in her life where there is so much pain, convincing.
This strong feature debut from Natalie Krinsky, after previously been a writer on Gossip Girl, makes her a storyteller worth watching. The tone is always light-hearted, and each scene is deliberate, with the film never overstaying its welcome. Krinsky also ensures that each supporting character is individualized enough to be hilarious and necessary to the story. Just watch as Lucy’s friends Amanda (Molly Gordon) and Nadine (Phillipa Soo) scare the hell out of Max (and later Nick) when they do Lucy wrong. Krinsky allows the actors to have fun with these scenes, and the result is hysterical. Casting directors Jennifer L. Smith and Lisa Zagoria have done a fantastic job finding unique actors to tell the stories of their broken hearts.
Everyone has a story to share about their broken heart. The film acknowledges both the ridiculous reasons couples have broken up and the unexpected tragedies people have encountered in their relationships. The budding friendship between Lucy and Nick effortlessly becomes more affectionate, and Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery are well-matched, creating a beautiful pair with a unique connection. We know where the film is going, but it’s the stories of broken hearts, and a central relationship worth rooting for that makes this film so entertaining.
The Broken Hearts Gallery is more than just the crap left behind after relationships have ended, but also shows the people who have survived and are ready to let go.