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Dacre Montgomery and Geraldine Viswanathan star in The Broken Hearts Gallery.

Linda Kallerus/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

  • The Broken Hearts Gallery
  • Written and directed by Natalie Krinsky
  • Starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery and Utkarsh Ambudkar
  • Classification PG; 108 minutes

rating

2.5 out of 4 stars


Can a movie be revolutionary at the same time that it’s generic?

Viewed from one angle, The Broken Hearts Gallery marks an unprecedented and long-overdue cinematic event: Never before has such a mainstream rom-com, pitched squarely to middle (North) America, employed a cast so refreshingly diverse. Stars Geraldine Viswanathan, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Phillipa Soo may not be household names yet (well, maybe Soo for her work on Broadway’s Hamilton), but they deserve to be. And The Broken Hearts Gallery might be the movie to make that happen.

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But viewed from another, more cynical angle, The Broken Hearts Gallery reveals itself as just another lightweight Saturday-night diversion – zippy and heartfelt, certainly, but hardly reinventing or even seasonally rotating the rom-com wheel.

Viswanathan is immensely charming as Lucy.

George Kraychyk/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

Focusing on young New York City art curator Lucy (Viswanathan), who decides to overcome a past relationship by opening the titular gallery where visitors can memorialize the detritus of failed romance, the film comes equipped with a neat enough hook. (Except for those who might be familiar with the very-real Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, or Haley McGee’s thematically similar theatre production, The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale.)

And its lead performers are, other than marking a welcome change from the lily-white faces that usually populate these kinds of affairs, immensely charming. Viswanathan, in particular, exudes an impressively incalculable mix of self-doubt and empowerment that makes it easy to figure out why ultra-handsome hotelier Nick (Stranger Things’ Dacre Montgomery) falls so hard for her.

Montgomery stars as the handsome hotelier who falls for Lucy.

George Kraychyk/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

Yet writer-director Natalie Krinsky’s script, which has long been passed through Hollywood as a hot property, treats its characters as if they were heightened sitcom prototypes. The dialogue is just a little too finely tuned and self-aware, as if an entire writers’ room put their heads together in order to engineer too-perfect comedic creations yet forgot to spend time adding genuine laugh lines, not to mention relatable human elements. (There is also one joke about beepers that I’m positive Tina Fey’s 30 Rock did first, and better.)

Still, there’s enough style and, um, heart in Krinsky’s ultra-romantic vision to carry the film through. Her version of New York City is a fairy-tale world as dreamed up by a millennial version of Candace Bushnell, or maybe it’s Lena Dunham, where every restaurant is lit up like a hipster neon wonderland, college-grad apartments are large enough to fit the entire cast of Friends two times over, and anything is possible so long as you have spirit, drive and a cameo from Bernadette Peters.

Molly Gordon's Amanda and Phillipa Soo's Nadine try to help Lucy through her heartbreak.

George Kraychyk/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

The Canadian Krinsky, making her directorial debut, has also nicely pulled off a traditional rite of passage for any homegrown filmmaker: disguising Toronto, where this was mostly shot, as Manhattan. (Perhaps the $4-million that Telefilm Canada provided for this explicitly un-Canadian movie helped.) But this country has had its heart broken before in this respect. Just like Lucy, we’ll pick ourselves up, and be all right.

The Broken Hearts Gallery opens in Canadian theatres Sept. 11

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