Breaking and Entering

Breaking and Entering is the latest film from Cold Mountain director Anthony Minghella, and it shows. Paced in such a way that it seems almost out of focus, the movie takes a leisurely route to introducing and letting us get to know its characters. On the surface they’re ordinary folks. Two business partners named Will (Jude Law) and Sandy (Martin Freeman) are opening a new office for their architectural firm. Will has a Swedish common law wife (Robin Wright Penn) he’s getting sick of. She has an autistic daughter who Will seems to like, but that his common law seems to think he does not. Will and Sandy have a sort of easy rapport between one another. Will and his wife are awkward and out of touch with each other.

It’s about then that Will and Sandy’s office gets burgled by a kid (Rafi Gavron). In fact he does it several times and eventually Will gets fed up and starts staking the place out. While away from his Swedish babe and engaging in late-night office stalking, he takes breaks from building watching to look for conversation with other women. First it’s a passing hooker (Vera Farmiga), eventually it’s the Bosnian mother (Juliette Binoche) of the kid who’s robbing him.

At first, Will and the cast of mundanes that surround him are interesting. At first they’re presented in an unconventional away, unfortunately it’s not long before Minghella’s interesting bunch of characters are forced into the same old boring patterns of overwrought predictability. The strange thing is that none of this seems to fit what we’ve learned previously about their personalities. Instead, where Minghella’s script goes fits the personalities of his actors, and not the characters his actors are supposed to be portraying. Jude Law always plays a womanizing cheater, so it’s not long before his likable and loyal character turns into one. Robin Wright Penn always plays cold and disconnected women. Her Swedish wife quickly becomes an unfeeling ice queen. Martin Freeman usually plays the best friend who stands around in the background, so even though early in the film he’s set up as the movie’s second lead, by the end Sandy is marginalized into that guy with the beard who stands around in the background.

I’d like to say Minghella’s done better work, but I’ve never been a fan of his movies. The Talented Mr. Ripley is interesting as a mystery movie, but detached and unfeeling. Cold Mountain is less interesting, but overlong and just as empty. Like those movies Breaking and Entering is too long and too distant. Worse, the script is all over the map and never settles in on a specific theme any more than it manages to figure out the emotional complexion of the people populating it. What starts out as something potentially more complicated and interesting turns into just another boring, messy, pessimistic relationship movie about men cheating and women behaving cruelly. Enough.

Josh Tyler