Two 20-somethings meet hyper-cute in “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan) – a quippy Manhattanite who has been dumped recently by her superficial boyfriend and fired from her job as an art gallery assistant – has accidentally jumped into the back seat of an idling vehicle she mistakes for her Uber, only to find that the sexy-and-single driver, Nick (Dacre Montgomery), is accommodating enough to take her home.
He’s also enough of a gentleman to never make a move.
In the unlikely case that you’ve never seen a rom-com before, you may be in for a mildly pleasant jolt, 90 minutes or so later. All others beware: The route of the film, like Lucy’s drive home, is preordained – a Google Maps version of a plot, with absolutely no surprises.
The polished if perfunctory directorial debut of TV writer Natalie Krinsky (“Gossip Girl”), “Broken Hearts” features an attractive, appealing cast, including, in addition to the two leads – each of whom oozes weapons-grade charm – Phillipa Soo (“Hamilton”), Utkarsh Ambudkar (“Brittany Runs a Marathon”), Bernadette Peters (“The Good Fight”) and Arturo Castro (“Broad City”).
But Krinsky’s strenuously arch screenplay, stuffed to bursting with an ironic detachment born of millennial angst – and zingers that feel less like real human conversation than the voice-overs of comedians simultaneously narrating their own sad lives – never so much as scratches the surface of genuine emotion. It’s all gloss and glitz, grunged up for the camera with the grubby patina of the bohemian life in New York City. Case in point: Nick lives in a former YMCA he is converting, seemingly single-handedly, into a boutique hotel. Where does he get the money? In this cinematic version of the Big Apple, such considerations only spoil the fun.
The title of the film comes from an idea of Lucy’s. Something of a pack rat, she has held onto old mementos of past lovers, hitting upon the idea of opening a gallery where the city’s lovelorn can dump their romantic keepsakes – a sort of performative art therapy. Lo and behold, Lucy’s idea – housed in Nick’s shabby-chic lobby – goes viral, attracting the attention of strangers and, ultimately, New York magazine.
This is actually not a bad idea, even though someone else’s trinkets and trash have no inherent meaning for the rest of us, apart from the tales that come attached to them. But it doesn’t quite work in a movie, despite the gimmick of recording several contributors talking directly to the camera about the stories behind their artifacts. The gallery itself seems like something that would work better on, say, Instagram than in a bricks-and mortar art space – let alone a nearly two-hour film.
Be that as it may, “Broken Hearts” wends its way toward the foregone conclusion with a single-minded determination that is admirable, if not exactly unexpected. Both Lucy and Nick (platonic friends, right?) still have previous entanglements with old flames that have to be dealt with before – well, you know.
It would be churlish of me (and, for most of you, completely unnecessary) to spell out what happens in this shiny and sugarcoated chronicle of sheer nonsense.
– – –
Rating: 1.5 stars. PG-13. Contains sexuality throughout, some crude references, strong language and drug references. 109 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.
(This review reflects the views of the author alone)