As an Aquarius sun with a Pisces Venus, The Museum of Broken Relationships has everything I could ever want. It's a unique concept filled with treasures from former lovers and more than enough stories to get my overly sensitive heart bursting with feelings. So when I heard about a rom-com that follows a young woman who decides to start a gallery where people can leave trinkets from past relationships, I had to get my greedy little hands on it! The Broken Hearts Gallery is everything I could have asked for as a stay-at-home watch: it's cheesy but not over the top, angsty but funny enough to strike the perfect balance, and just plain fun!
Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery are perfectly cast as the effervescent Lucy and the sullen Nick, respectively, two 20-somethings who unexpectedly find their way into each other's lives. Lucy, a gallery assistant with big ideas and an even bigger heart, is an emotional hoarder that collects keepsakes from all her relationships. After getting fired from her job and a humiliating breakup with her latest boyfriend, Lucy is inspired to create The Broken Heart Gallery, a pop-up space for the items love has left behind. And the perfect place for her exhibition has to be the Chloe Hotel, which just happens to be Nick's beloved work in progress! As the two work together to bring their visions to life, their progression from reluctant friends to budding romantic partners is sweet in its simplicity. Even when outside drama comes into play — and it must, because that's the rules of rom-coms — the allure and charm of Lucy and Nick are too good to let go.
POPSUGAR chatted with the stars of the film and dug deeper into what makes The Broken Hearts Gallery such a good time, as well as the art of improv and how romance is back in style.
POPSUGAR: So what drew you both to the project and the roles of Lucy and Nick?
Geraldine Viswanathan: I read the script and I had so much fun reading it and I fell in love with Lucy. I thought she was a cool character and someone that I would want to be friends with, someone that I admired. I loved her outgoing-ness and how much she wears her heart on her sleeve — I find that inspiring. And then I met [director Natalie Krinsky] and soon realised that the essence of Natalie is very much in Lucy and I fell in love with Natalie simultaneously. We just had this instant bond and I just really wanted to make this movie with her, and make something fun, sweet, and thoughtful.
PS: I love that! And that's one of the things I loved about Lucy, she wears her heart on her sleeve, but not in a superdelicate way. She's very loud, brash, and frequently the pusher rather than being pushed into things.
GV: Yeah! I feel like Lucy is all the sparkliest, fluffiest thoughts of myself. She's me on my best day when I'm feeling confident. Lucy's one of those people that can just make friends with anyone instantly and talk to strangers. She's fearless in that cool way. I think that was something that I was interested in exploring in myself because I'm much more introverted and I wouldn't consider myself the life of the party, necessarily. I'm usually eating the snacks and nervous to talk to people. [laughs] So it was cool to just live in the shoes of someone who is quite different from me and who lives out loud.
Dacre Montgomery: I wanted to take a big 180 coming off of Stranger Things character-wise, and I think, ultimately, to push myself in a comedic capacity. I wasn't familiar with working with so many comedians and there's a lot of improvisations that kept me on my toes. So I was doing a 180 with the character and as an actor in my career, wanting to push myself in a completely different direction. I learned a huge amount from my costars and Natalie.
PS: No offence to Billy, but I like Nick a little more, I'm not going to lie. What was your favourite part of filming?
GV: We filmed last summer in Toronto and it just felt like a party. I think Natalie always made it fun and made sure that the spirits were lifted and we were having fun. I feel like we were always playing music and it just felt like this party, because we have so many great players in the movie. So many amazing supporting cast would come in and it was like a new guest came to our dinner party. So it was so fun and it was such a beautiful summer making this really fun movie. And that was the thing that I was really happy to see when I saw the finished product. I feel like the fun we had making it comes through.
PS: Absolutely! And I think that helped me enjoy the film so much more. Because it looked like people were having a great old time. Speaking of which, everyone has such exceptional delivery and hilarious lines. How hard was it to keep a straight face during some of those scenes?
GV: There were definitely some scenes, especially with Molly [Gordon] and Pippa [Phillipa Soo] because we got on instantly. We had quite a natural chemistry and enjoy making each other laugh. I'm remembering the scene where Molly says, "You need to wash your mouth out with a fresh, minty dick" or something so ridiculous. [laughs] But it took us so long to get a take of her saying that line without laughing! We had to work hard to keep it together.
PS: Dacre, you're kind of the straight man in the film while everyone else is up to shenanigans. How hard was it for you to keep it serious?
DM: Extremely, especially with some actors. Arturo [Castro] plays my best friend who's helping me build the hotel even though he's quite reluctant to, and he's hilarious. He's just so witty and brought so much hilarity to each line, so it was extremely hard.
"I'd say we were all pretty guilty of some of the insanity that comes out of our mouths in the movie."
PS: How much of the film was ad-libbed or improv? One of my favourite scenes is during the karaoke party where Marcos (Arturo Castro) and Randy (Megan Ferguson) are riffing about who he would marry if she died. It was so funny watching them go off, the entire time I thought, "There's no way this was scripted!"
GV: It was super collaborative. Natalie was always very open and supportive of us bringing our ideas to the movie, which was rewarding in the end because it felt like we were all a part of it so much more than usual. There was a lot of rewriting scenes on the day or writing alternative jokes that we could try. So I'd say we were all pretty guilty of some of the insanity that comes out of our mouths in the movie.
PS: Would you say the improvisation of the film is one of the things that makes Broken Hearts Gallery stand out from other rom-coms?
DM: Obviously the structure was there. Natalie had been working on this idea for a huge amount of time, so there's that built-in level of connection for her, with the story and things that we needed to hit content-wise in the structure of the script. But outside of that, there was lots of room for improvisation. Even though I was playing a straight character, I was encouraged to improvise every day. I think that was great and got me out of my comfort zone. The karaoke scene, that kind of shows who Nick is, you know what I mean? So that was so much fun to play with and there was so much room for improvisation to be a goofball and come out of my shell as a human as well as an actor.
So that was lovely and probably adds to the rom-com structure rather than challenges the traditional. I think there's a lot of room for improvisation in rom-coms and that makes them successful. In many respects, that spontaneity is just built into the genre and it's what people find is the best kind of escapism.
PS: Absolutely. But wait, are you telling me that you're not secretly a karaoke legend? Is that what you're saying?
"Our movie strikes this nice balance between feeling nostalgic and feeling like an homage to the '90s golden age of rom-com while also being super modern and fresh."
DM: [laughs] Unfortunately, I'll break the fourth wall for you here and tell you I'm not. It's funny, I've always had this thing for some reason with not being confident singing, even with my friends after a few drinks. I must have this complex from childhood. Even when I went through drama school, there was this singing component in one of the courses that we took over the years when I was there. And I just remember that I was a mess on that day. It ultimately worked out, I think.
Plus, we didn't want that scene to have him suddenly be this fantastic showman; Nick's supposed to be this guy that Lucy is trying to get out of his shell. She's trying to pull this out of him. And that moment is one of those interim stages of their connection that ultimately blossoms to a relationship.
PS: That's beautiful! The karaoke party was one of my absolute favourite scenes of the entire movie.
GV: That's great! It was all very real. Me, convincing him to get up on stage and not care about what people think. It was cool to see him do it, enjoy it, and have fun with it. Our movie strikes this nice balance between feeling nostalgic and feeling like an homage to the '90s golden age of rom-com while also being super modern and fresh. I feel like Natalie was able to walk that line and capture that energy that we all love from rom-coms, especially set in New York. I think we tried to make it grounded and in our realities and put our personal touch. It felt very personal.
PS: I love that. So Dacre, obviously you and Nick have some things in common. Did it help you relate to the character more? What are some elements of him that you wish you possessed?
DM: Yeah, especially when I met my partner who I've been with for two and a half years, I was always fun but always 200 percent on, working. She helps me get out of my shell a lot. I think that's something that Nick and a previous version of myself from two years ago share. That ability that Lucy has to get him out of his shell is the ability that my partner has to get me out of my over-functioning obsessive ways. I think that was the biggest similarity and I used it.
PS: That's sweet. It sounds like you both enjoyed working on the film. What was your favourite moment filming with each other?
GV: It was awesome! There's always this familiarity with other Australians in the biz, so it was fun to get to work with him. And we just had a lot of fun.
DM: I've never really worked in Australia before and when I've been away shooting I haven't worked with an Australian. So that was actually kind of nice because culturally, there's a lot of similarities. So it was just the overall experience of working with an Australian for the first time.
GV: [laughs] As soon as I think of Dacre I think of his eyelashes. He has such thick, dark eyelashes, I've never seen them before on a man like this.
PS: They're low-key not fair. Now, back to Lucy and Nick, what did you like about their romance? I enjoyed them together but I got worried at the end when he said, "I love you" and she was just like, "I'm getting back to my speech."
"They just really balance each other out and understand each other and want to help each other."
GV: I like that there's this almost reluctance. The world just wants them to be together so much! They kept running into each other and now they're so intertwined in each other's lives. They just really balance each other out and understand each other and want to help each other. That scene where Lucy says, "Oh, I've never had a guy be happy for my success before," that's so important in a relationship and I think that they meet each other in a good way.
PS: That line hit me so hard. I was like, "Whoa, same girl."
GV: We've all been there!
PS: So where do you see Lucy, Nick, and the Broken Hearts Hotel in five years?
GV: Both of them just popping off, successful, huge. Maybe they're living together or travelling the world as a business duo. A hotel-slash-art-space duo. Taking over the world.
DM: Yeah, I don't know. Obviously, by the end of the film, it seems to be a very successful venture or endeavour. So, yeah, I would say that in five years, they're just expanding on what's there within the hotel or maybe expanding into this community within New York and the greater area. Even if it's more hotels and more galleries, you know, it's expansion.
PS: I love it! They're similar visions, it's the same dream.
DM: I'm a bit of a sentimentalist and I think [the concept of the Broken Hearts Gallery] is nice. You see what's written on the wall and what the context is, but we project our context onto those things based on our previous relationships. There's a level of escapism in this film, but as a viewer, you place yourself in the shoes of characters when you watch it. And there'll be a whole host of people watching that are projecting their experiences and influences and their relationships onto it. Just like when you visit the actual Museum of Broken Relationships exhibitions, you place your own experience onto the exhibits. I just love that this film is about things. I think that's what I was attracted to.
PS: You sound like a true romantic. What's the most outrageous thing you've done in the name of romance?
DM: I don't know. I'm all about adventure and experiencing things. As soon as my partner and I met, I think it was like our fourth date, she just told me to drive somewhere and we jumped like 40,000 feet out of the plane. A month later we walked into a bar and got a tattoo. I think it's all about going with the flow and just experiencing things. You and that person should have stuff in common, but I like finding differences in a relationship because then you can learn things and you challenge things, and you are challenged, which means there's a lot of growth. So I think that's probably my favourite thing about being in a great relationship. It's sort of about growth and experience.
(Dacre Montgomery with his partner, Olivia Pollock.) Image Source: Getty / Sam Tabone
PS: Well, damn. I feel like I just learned something. I'm re-evaluating all my relationships now.
DM: [laughs] No, everything's different! But I've been with my girlfriend for a long time now and I just think that's probably the best part.
PS: No, that's beautiful and it's beautiful to hear. It's nice to know that you are just as romantic as Nick is, in the end! And you, Geraldine, what's the most outrageous thing you've done in the name of romance? Have you been in a gallery where you told someone you love them and waited for them to finish their speech?
GV: Have I? God, probably not. I feel like I'm not a huge romantic, I think I'm too lazy.
PS: This is the push you need to do something ridiculously romantic!
GV: Yeah. It's true. I'm inspired now. I'll have to go and stand in the rain and tell someone I love them or something.
PS: I'm so glad I could help motivate this.
The Broken Hearts Gallery is in cinemas on September 17.