THE BROKEN HEARTS GALLERY (2020)

(Starz/VOD) A funny and surprisingly sweet quarter-century crisis film/rom-com that’s is well-calibrated for minds hungry for loads of smart quips.

Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan, BLOCKERS, MIRACLE WORKERS), a mid-20s pack rat with the habit of hanging onto keepsakes of her exes, is working towards her dream job as a gallery owner with her attractive and responsible boyfriend Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar, PITCH PERFECT) at a NYC museum run by her idol Eva Woolf (Bernadette Peters, who needs no introduction).

Within the span of one night, she loses both Max and her job and, in a drunk/depressed stupor, gets into what she thinks is her Lyft, but it’s just one dude who forgot to lock his passenger side door. The dude, Nick, takes pity on her and drives her home, and they start orbiting around each other. Lucy discovers that he’s trying to rehab an old YMCA into a hotel, and she takes the opportunity to set up a gallery inspired by her attempts to let go of her exes’ knickknacks, hence the title of the film.

This is writer/director Natalie Krinsky’s debut film, but she’s been writing for TV — including a long run on GOSSIP GIRL — for quite some time, and it shows. The heart of the film is the bluntly smart and rapid comedic patter of the dialogue, as opposed to flashy visuals or convoluted set pieces — although he film’s lighting is vibrantly under-lit, a rarity in rom-coms — and Krinsky couldn’t have hoped for a better lead for her script than Viswanathan. While Viswanathan has always stood out in every work she’s been involved in, her extremely expressive face and ability to turn on a dime pulls off a character that could come across as a bit too intense or creepy.

Viswanathan doesn’t have to solely carry the film on her shoulders either, as the supporting cast is ridiculously talented and fill out the film’s flavor: Lucy’s extremely supportive, but gloriously unique, roommates are HAMILTON’s Phillipa Soo (not a role I expected to see her in) and Molly Gordon (TNT’s ANIMAL KINGDOM and Hulu’s RAMY), and Arturo Castro (BROAD CITY, NARCOS) has a great rapport with Lucy as Nick’s friend. Even Nathan Dales (LETTERKENNY) pops up in a slightly gimmicky role!

While the breathless jokes, earnestness, and conventional story beats may turn some folks off, I couldn’t help but embrace it. In a genre full of paint-by-numbers comfort food mediocrity, it’s nice to see a rom-com add some verve and push the boundaries a bit, while remaining supremely entertaining.