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Heartburn

August 30, 2010

Heartburn (1986)
Director: Mike Nichols
Actors: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Stockard Channing

Synopsis: The rise and fall of a marriage.

Review: A truly prosaic film, flawed in either of its two conceptual guises as a screwball comedy or an ‘adult’ depiction of a rapidly disintegrating marriage. The film’s comedy angle is incredibly lazy, fuelled seemingly by the belief that getting Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson together and watching the proverbial sparks fly, will be sufficiently entertaining. Unfortunately, without the service of a decent script this tactic falls painfully flat, and leads to excruciating scenes where Nicholson clearly needed to be reined in (particularly the supposedly humorous interlude where he sings all manner of ‘comic’ melodies to his soon-to-be-born child).

Heartburn’s dramatic weaknesses are slightly more complex; perhaps partly down to the fact that nearly twenty-five years later, the film cannot help but seem dated and ‘unsophisticated’ when pitted against even the most mainstream of contemporary romantic dramas. Nicholson’s infidelity is pedalled randomly at various junctures to propel the plot forward and to lend the story’s characters a sense of pathos, but because the device is so mechanical and sometimes used for outright comedic purposes, it hardly fits with the film’s sombre closing moments that hint at the couple’s irrevocable incompatibility. (February 2009)

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