When Natalie Krinsky wrote the first draft forThe Broken Hearts Gallerynearly 10 years ago, she never thought she’d get to see it on-screen, let alone direct it. (Her reaction when asked to helm the project without jumping through any hoops was: “Thank you so much for letting me know what it feels like to be a straight white guy. I accept.”)
She also never imagined the circumstances under which her film would be released — in the middle of a pandemic, in half-empty theaters and drive-in screens across the country . And yet, The Broken Hearts Gallery feels weirdly appropriate for this time. It’s a genuinely funny, hopeful comedy that pierces through the pervasive sense of gloom. But it’s also a film about letting go of expectations and accepting the slow process of grieving over dashed hopes — joy and release, two things I am personally craving these days.
Produced by Selena Gomez, the Broken Hearts Gallery stars Blockersscene-stealer Geraldine Viswanathan as Lucy, an aspiring New York City art gallerist with a bit of a hoarding problem. Lucy keeps souvenirs of every single experience, no matter how inconsequential — batteries, restaurant pens, a former crush’s retainer, you name it. But when she simultaneously gets dumped by her boyfriend Max (Utkarsh Ambudkar) and loses her long-coveted job, Lucy starts to feel weighed down by her collection. In a twist of fate, that’s also when she meets Nick (Stranger Things’ Dacre Montgomery ), a loner with a chip on his shoulder who nonetheless inspires her to start her own art project: A gallery where people can leave their relics of relationships past. As her career starts taking off, Lucy finds that making space in her closet might also have finally made space in her heart.
“As we’re all sitting in our homes looking over our history and being around all of our things constantly, hopefully people will be able to relate,” Krinsky told Refinery29 on a June phone call. “We all have that box of stuff under our bed.”
The story originally came out of Krinsky’s own life experience living in L.A. in her twenties, desperately trying to make it as a writer. “I had just broken up with my boyfriend — okay, let’s be honest he broke up with me — and I’d been fired from a job, and moving apartments,” she said. “I was going through the detritus of everything he had left behind trying to pick up the pieces of my life, and I heard about the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia. That’s where the script began — from the beats of my own life.”
A decade later, Viswanathan was primed to take up the mantle as Lucy. “I’m a big time hoarder. Especially right now,” Viswanthan said during that same phone call. “I desperately hold on to souvenirs and memories, not only from relationships but also good times I want to remember. Every time I go back home to my childhood bedroom, I’ll go back through my collection of things. So I related to Lucy’s romantic view of the world. She felt like me on my best days.”
A heroine with a strange hobby and optimistic outlook is precariously poised to fall into manic pixie dream girl territory. But Viswanathan's powerful charisma, combined with Krinsky’s refreshingly down-to-earth dialogue, prevents Lucy from veering in that direction. Instead, she feels like a celebration of everyday weirdness — not the ukulele-plucking, twee retro outfit-wearing type, but the kind of eccentricity that feels personal and relatable. That, combined with the still-all-too-rare casting of a woman of color as a romantic lead, works to make the movie feel like an instant rom-com classic.
“We've seen a certain type of woman in romantic comedy essentially since the beginning of time,” Krinsky said. “I really wanted to go outside of that. And the other thing that I think was really important to me in the casting process was just thinking, This is what New York looks like. This is what a group of friends looks like. This is what the world looks like.
Our movies should be reflective of that because we're telling stories about people, and people all look and act differently.”
"Napoleon Dynamite." Jon Heder was paid $1,000 to play Napoleon Dynamite. The movie grossed over $40,000,000 in the United States.
Watching Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Projectwas one of the first times that Viswanathan felt represented on-screen. “She really had the career that I wanted,” she said. “She was in the comedy space, and she made her own show. I just thought that was the coolest thing that anyone could ever do.”
Krinsky says Viswanathan is on track to leave a similar mark on the culture. “To see Geraldine be as dynamic and incredible as she is in this movie...she’s given us a gift,” she said. “She’s going to be one of the iconic female leads of our time.”