“The Broken Hearts Gallery” checks off a number of rom-com requirements, from character details like the protagonist’s job in the NYC art world, the composition of her friend group (a weird one and a lesbian one), and her obsession with an unattainable older man, to the setup of certain scenes, like an amorous karaoke performance and a spirited argument about the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse. All of those elements are recognizably familiar, but Krinsky’s script is simultaneously wry and earnest, building inner lives for these characters that feel genuine. Starting the film with a high school flashback helps explain Nadine and Amanda’s tolerance of Lucy’s collecting (“You’re basically an anthropologist … Nothing wrong with being sentimental,” they assure her), and the film spends enough time with the trio to demonstrate the depth of their friendship. Nadine and Amanda know to provide Lucy with a blanket, a box of tissues, a DVD of “Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind,” and a bag of chips with a bottle of ranch dressing once she admits being dumped. They also know to urge her into action after weeks of letting her wallow; “Have you just been masturbating and braiding your hair for three weeks?” is their amazed reaction when they see her messy bed. Krinsky writes the trio with enough specificity to capture shared history and continued loyalty.
All of this is elevated by Viswanathan, whose confident performance makes clear her myriad talents. She was a wise-cracking scene stealer in the sex comedy “Blockers”; communicated great internal struggle as the titular Hala in Minhal Baig’s portrait of a Muslim family; and gave millennials a dogged investigative journalist of their own in “Bad Education.” In “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” her broad smile gives life to zany dialogue like “I love her so much, it gives me diarrhea” (when discussing her respect for her boss) and “I’m in my mid-20s, I barely ever wash my face” (when trying to hold her own against Max’s new girlfriend). As the straight man to Viswanathan’s boundless energy, Montgomery is more controlled and downbeat, and the contrast works. Although certain elements of their bond, like a mutual fondness toward neon signs, feel too intentionally random, Viswanathan and Montgomery are believably comfortable with each other, and that ease underscores their steadily escalating romance.
Putting aside the amusing script and the entertaining cast, there are storytelling elements of “The Broken Hearts Gallery” that are irritatingly trite (including an allusion to a breakup with a certain President of the United States) and other narrative details that needed more time, in particular the root cause for Lucy’s item-gathering. Although the explanation is meaningful, that personality trait is so formative to who Lucy is that its justification could have been expanded into more than one scene. Still, “The Broken Hearts Gallery” is so committed in its empathy toward the unlucky in love, and benefits so much from Viswanathan’s vibrant performance in support of that compassion, that overlooking those flaws—just like rooting for Nick and Lucy—is easy to do.
For transparency’s sake, it feels important to state that this film was screened via link despite its availability only in theaters. The intent of this review is not to encourage or discourage anyone from attending a theatrical screening at this specific time. It is an analysis of the work itself for posterity.