Geraldine Viswanathan Is Delightful in Charming Rom-Com ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery’
A young woman’s quest to turn what others may perceive as trash into treasure is chronicled in “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” a fresh romantic comedy produced by pop megastar Selena Gomez. Geraldine Viswanathan plays the endearing protagonist, gallery assistant Lucy Gulliver. At just 26, Lucy seems to be living her dream life in NYC, working for her a respected gallery owner, Eva Woolf (Bernadette Peters), and dating a handsome “real man” (he’s 35), curator Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar). However, after discovering that Max has reunited with his ex during a high-end event at the gallery, she has a booze-fueled meltdown that not only results in the loss of her job, but also her becoming the latest viral laughing stock. After hibernating for days in her bedroom with her vibrator and snack foods, she sets out to help herself and others deal with the grief that comes from break-ups with a cathartic art exhibit.
Lucy, who in many ways is just like a million other young people striving to “make it” in New York, has a one quirk that sets her apart. After each of her relationships ends, she keeps a souvenir of something they left behind, items ranging from a necktie to a used retainer. And it’s not as if she keeps these things in a box under her bed; she displays them in full view, and one ex-lover even goes as far as to compare her bedroom to a mausoleum. However, Lucy has a secret that explains her hoarder tendencies, one that she only reveals to those closest to her.
So messy is her love life that Lucy’s otherwise supportive roommates and best friends, fashion professional Nadine (Phillipa Soo) and law student Amanda (Molly Gordon), take bets on when her relationships will end. While lesbian Nadine is a serial heartbreaker, Amanda is a long-term relationship with hipster Jeff (Nathan Dales), a man who’s failure to speak for himself becomes a funny running joke.
Enter Nick (Darce Montgomery), an entrepreneur and good listener whom Lucy meets after she drunkenly enters his car thinking it’s an Uber. Being a gentleman, he makes sure she gets home safe. Later, he shows her the building he is converting into a hotel. There, she hangs up Max’s tie, and is delighted to learn the next day that an anonymous person offered up a personal memento of their own to the wall. She proceeds to convince Nick and his associate and best friend Marcos (Arturo Castro) to let her set up the Broken Hearts Gallery in their establishment, the Hotel Chloe, in exchange for her help preparing the property. Marcos is keen on the idea, but Nick is less thrilled. Although there is obvious chemistry between him and Lucy, there is something holding him back.
The plot gets into gear once Lucy hits her stride, making an Instagram account for the gallery that attracts thousands of followers. Soon, people all over the city are donating their relationship artifacts. Heartfelt and humorous interlaced segments feature various characters discussing the stories behind their donations. Even the character of Max, who it is implied used Lucy to advance his career and only reappears after she gets a write-up in a glossy magazine, is treated with empathy in the end.
The whole idea of an exhibit featuring discarded relationship mementos may seem far-fetched if it wasn’t for the fact that the Museum of Broken Relationships, a traveling exhibit that found a permanent home in Croatia, was such a sensation that a temporary branch was set up in Los Angeles. Just like the artists behind the museum, writer-director Natalie Krinsky has nicely tapped into the ways we connect memories with objects, and through her film, she puts a human face on those behind such emotionally-charged artifacts. She also deserves props for assembling a stellar ensemble cast of comedic actors who play well off of each other, with Viswanathan, a versatile actress who has been under the radar for too long, being the MVP.
“The Broken Hearts Gallery” opens Sept. 11 in select cities.