Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 18, 2020)
Though the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the movie release schedule for much of 2020, one silver lining emerged, as smaller films got more attention than otherwise might’ve occurred. Not that this translated to box office returns, as audiences largely stayed home, but the paucity of big blockbusters at least meant potential audiences gained greater awareness of these flicks than likely would’ve happened in a non-COVID world.
Into this category falls 2020’s The Broken Hearts Gallery, a romantic comedy. With a US gross of only $4 million, it didn’t benefit financially from the lack of competition, but I believe it enjoyed greater name recognition due to the empty multiplex screens.
20-something aspiring artist Lucy Gulliver (Geraldine Viswanathan) saves souvenirs from each of her many failed relationships. When her latest breakup causes her to lose her job, she decides to channel these emotions into what she calls the “Broken Heart Gallery”, a facility that takes these preserved objects and attempts to turn them into art.
As Lucy explores these possibilities, she meets Nick (Dacre Montgomery), a young man with his own dream to open a small hotel. After an antagonistic introduction, the two develop a business partnership – and a romance.
Thus we find Unsurprising Element Number One in Gallery: the “meet cute” that blossoms. When Lucy embarrasses herself at the gallery where she works and winds up canned, she mistakes Nick for a rideshare driver and forces him to take her to her destination.
The “meet cute” exists as a crucial staple of romantic comedies, so I won’t criticize that choice too much. I will go after the movie’s decision to make Lucy relentlessly obnoxious, though.
One’s enjoyment of Gallery will likely depend largely on how one views Viswanathan’s performance. If you find her brand of wild-eyed overacting delightful, you’ll love the film, and if you don’t, you’ll hate it.
I suppose the fact I referred to Viswanathan’s turn as “wild-eyed overacting” might offer a clue of my position. Due to a number of factors, Gallery seemed doomed to failure, but Viswanathan’s rabid take on our lead ensures that it becomes a total chore to watch.
Viswanathan doesn’t act as Lucy – she terrorizes the role, as she mugs, shouts, grimaces and bugs her eyes. This Dunning-Kruger Comedy, as Viswanathan’s “Amy Schumer on Speed” performance implies she believes she’s vastly funnier and more charming than she is.
It doesn’t help that Gallery packs its bloated 109-minute running time with a non-stop array of nutty characters. Each one seems more annoying than the last, and the script forces them to utter incessant batches of inane dialogue that no actual human would speak.
On the other hand, Montgomery plays Nick in such a comatose manner that it never seems clear that he knows he’s on camera. Montgomery interprets his lines as though he just read them for the first time and hasn’t attempted a real take on the part.
Much of Gallery plays like a fantasy in which an average-looking weirdo can Have It All. Sure, Lucy initially comes across as hapless, but we still see that she manages to attract much hotter men, all because…the script says so?
Perhaps I should embrace this improbable side of Gallery, as movies/TV have allowed less than attractive guys to land hot women essentially forever. Still, two wrongs don’t make a right, and Lucy’s inherent obnoxiousness makes her Stud Appeal tough to swallow.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Viswanathan has a certain cute look. Perhaps if Lucy came across as charming and less of a rampaging narcissist, I could swallow her ability to attract much bette looking men.
Viswanathan’s awful performance makes this a bridge too far. I don’t mean to repeat myself, but she really does become a constant drain on any potential the movie might boast.
That said, even a stellar lead performance wouldn’t redeem this atrocity. More of a bad first draft for a student project, Gallery offers a rom-com with no romance, no comedy and no appeal.
Footnote: I can’t figure out why the title reads Broken Hearts Gallery when the story always calls it the “Broken Heart Gallery”. It’s a bad sign when a film can’t even keep this straight.