‘Broken Hearts’ is heart-warming and funny

The romantic comedy genre could use a 21st century Nora Ephron.

It may have found her with writer-director Natalie Krinsky.

Krinsky, who has written for “Gossip Girl” and “Grey’s Anatomy” on television, makes her feature writing and directing debut with “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” which doesn’t break the rom-com formula but certainly freshens it up.

That starts with the casting. In the ’90s, Geraldine Viswanathan maybe, just maybe would have gotten to read for the quirky best friend, who offers up one-liners and the occasional bit of insightful relationship advice.

She’s the lead here as Lucy Gulliver, whose professional and personal lives collapse simultaneously when she discovers the co-worker (Utkarsh Ambudkar) she’s been seeing has a girlfriend. She learns this in the middle of a speech at an art opening after one too many drinks, which causes her to lose her job at the gallery as well as the man.

All that remains of the relationship is his necktie, and Lucy’s bedroom is filled with the ephemera left behind from past heartbreaks.

Lucy befriends Nick (Dacre Montgomery), who is struggling to turn an old New York building into a boutique hotel. One night she nails the tie on the wall and calls it The Broken Hearts Gallery. When a second person puts something there, she creates an Instagram account for the gallery and starts collecting thousands of followers and contributions from others who are looking to leave behind the relics from past breakups.

Viswanthan, who played the teen journalist who exposes the embezzlement scheme in the HBO film “Bad Education,” is radiant on screen as Lucy and is particularly talented in handling the comedic elements of the story. She and Montgomery (Billy from “Stranger Things”) generate believable chemistry that helps as the couple deals with some of the standard obstacles of rom-com relationships.

The success or failure of a romantic comedy depends on the primary couple, but “Gallery” works so well because Krinsky makes it a story not just about finding love, but finding a supportive partner in life. She also fills the story with a great collection of supporting characters.

Lucy has two fiercely loyal childhood friends — Nadine (Phillipa Soo), a love-’em-and-leave-’em lesbian; and Amanda (Molly Gordon), an acerbic pessimist with a love of serial killer stories and a mostly silent boyfriend (Nathan Dales).

Arturo Castro brings a playful quality to Marcos, Nick’s friend and partner in the hotel project. The immediate connection he and Lucy make and their banter is one of the film’s most appealing elements.

Bernadette Peters plays Lucy’s former boss, Eva Woolf, a gallery owner who provides some wisdom and sage advice. Ambudkar adds some nuance to the ex-boyfriend role.

As much as I liked “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” I think Krinsky botched the ending. There’s a clear path to a happy, but non-traditional finale that the movie sets up but doesn’t deliver.

There are other details to nitpick. In a metropolitan area the size of New York, Lucy and Nick and Lucy and her ex have way too many coincidental meetings, and the obstacles that endanger Lucy’s and Nick’s relationship are easy to predict, although there are a couple surprises among the revelations.

It’s a credit to how well the movie works that none of those things are fatal flaws. And I can’t wait to see what Krinsky and Viswanthan do next.


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