Breaking Up, Bisexuality, and Celine Dion: New Zealand Comedy Duo on Their New Film “The Breaker Upperers”

Out star Madeleine Sami chats about the new Netflix film.

Breaking up isn’t hard to do if you have a pair of professional heartbreakers doing the dirty work. And money—you’ll need money.

In The Breaker Upperers, Jen (Jackie van Beek) and “former practicing bisexual, now celibate” Mel (Madeleine Sami) are BFFs in their late 30s who tear couples apart for profit. But when Mel falls for a former casualty, their codependent friendship is put through the wringer, Celine song and all.

Premiering February 15 on Netflix, the peppy romp—the first female-buddy comedy out of New Zealand, Sami notes—is written and directed by van Beek and Sami, who are comics and real-life friends. Like wife Ladyhawke, a synth-pop artist, Sami is also a musician (they have a baby girl who turns 2 in October).

NewNowNext spoke with Sami about Mel’s matter-of-fact bisexuality, bucking queer clichés and Kristen Stewart’s contribution to gaydar.

How did the concept initiate?

Jackie actually came to me with the premise of two twisted friends who break up couples for cash. I thought it was brilliant and lent itself so well to a pretty twisted story that we could have a lot of fun with.

Did you realize your film would be groundbreaking?

We didn’t really even have time to think about that! It felt like the right time to step up and take that responsibility and be like, “Yeah, we can do this.”

How did Mel’s sexuality come to be?

We wanted to reflect the reality of the world we live in, but we didn’t want to build a story around it. We wanted it to be part of the fabric of our story. We wanted it to feel like life.

Even within the LGBTQ community, the bisexual community often goes underrepresented.

Yeah, people sort of feel ashamed to use the word bisexual, like they’re gonna be judged for not being able to choose what they prefer. My friends who are bisexual have always felt like they’ve never been able to be quite as confident with [their sexuality] as my gay and lesbian friends.

But Mel really owns her bisexuality.

Yeah! Subconsciously she keeps talking about it because she is wanting to experience the feelings again. She’s blocked off that part of herself for so long, so I think the reason she mentions it so much in the film is because she needs to probably have sex!

Refreshingly, Jen’s mom is so open-minded she’s actually upset that Jen isn’t gay.

We really wanted to upend a lot of clichés in our film. In film, the wealthy parent is always sort of conservative, but she’d love for Jen to be gay. I actually do know a few moms who wish their kids could be gay. They’re so past that conversation [laughs]. I have a friend who is trying to indoctrinate her son with RuPaul’s Drag Race, because I’m pretty sure she wants him to become a drag queen.


Are you that kind of mom?

I’m not that kind of mom, but I do appreciate parents who just want the best for their kids and don’t put any of their own hangups on their own children.

In the film, Mel tests Jen’s bisexuality by evaluating her familiarity with Kristen Stewart. What’s your go-to bi test?

Definitely “The Kristen Stewart.” When Kristen Stewart started getting into indie films, (my friends and I) were just like, “My gaydar is going ding-ding!” Like, “What is up with this girl? Is she gay or not? I’m getting a major gay vibe!” So definitely if you find Kristen Stewart hot.

What’s the story behind that scene involving Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now?”

Well, that is my karaoke song. I have karaoke songs built into my computer, so I’m, like, the walking karaoke—I could come to your house right now and sing karaoke. But when we were writing we wanted to find a way to show the friendship backstory and being able to actually sing it as well was too good to pass up. Yeah, I think I’m gonna need to put a karaoke song into every single movie I write from now on.

All Celine?

The theme from Titanic is always good. “That’s the Way It Is.” There’s a Celine Dion tune for every occasion!

Lastly, you co-host The Great Kiwi Bake Off in New Zealand. Why do you think it’s earned such a big LGBTQ following?

We get to be really naughty. I mean, I got addicted to watching The Great British Bake Off, and then getting the opportunity to present it in New Zealand was just like, “Hell yeah, I’m totally in.” And you can never make too many puns about, you know, buns. So many bun puns. And cream!

The Breaker Upperers is currently streaming on Netflix.

Detroit-ish based writer-editor, Meryl Streep stan. Thought I'd retire after Mariah Carey called me a "dahhling," but here I am.