Movie Review #924


Nationwide release on July 25, 1986. Comedy/Drama. This film is rated R. Runs 108 minutes. American production. Director: Mike Nichols. Screenplay: Nora Ephron. Novel: Nora Ephron. Cast: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, Maureen Stapleton, and Stockard Channing.


By Alexander Diminiano

I would be lying if I said that Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson were only great actors. They’re both more than that: the two of them individually are two of the finest actors alive. But I guess everyone makes a stupid decision now and then, and for these two, it was signing onto this movie, rather than a better one. I’m convinced that the only thing keeping “Heartburn” in my memory is the fact that I’m writing a review for it.

Nothing’s ever great here, and nothing’s ever awful. The fact that “Heartburn” is such a tidal wave of comme ci comme ça seems to make the writing even more lackluster–and the story even less interesting. It’s difficult for me to believe that one could even tie a word like “lackluster” to a movie with this kind of talent, and I don’t just mean Jack and Meryl. There’s Nora Ephron on the script, and Mike Nichols (R.I.P.) sitting in the director’s chair. This is supposedly a seriocomic autobiography for Ms. Ephron, but given how clever most of her work is, who knew her life could be so boring? Not even Nichols tries to lead us to sympathize for all that Meryl’s character goes through. We can thank Meryl for choosing to lead her life as a method actor, and for starring in “Heartburn”, because she certainly has made this character seem at least mildly interesting.

I feel like I’m writing in circles, so to speak. You might expect brilliance of this movie if you manage to forget who’s writing and who’s directing, but alas, there is no actual brilliance here. There’s talent, though, and that’s all in the characters that Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep play. The movie claims to be a comedy, but the only thing I really found funny here is how well this movie brands those two actors into stock characters. Which makes Meryl’s misery a bit laughable later in the movie when she discovers that her husband (Nicholson) is cheating on her. I don’t mean to sound cruel in any way, but did she really think that Jack Nicholson would be the kind of guy to stay faithful throughout a marriage?

If you’re wondering exactly what “Heartburn” is about, I’ll give you a few key terms to piece together. Marriage, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, more sex, more pregnancy, more childbirth, child rearing, infidelity, separation, renewed love, and probably something else after that. If this were a nature documentary, one might call it “The Life Cycle of Two Middle-Class Americans and Their Offspring”. A lot of the movie seems to have been ad libbed thoroughly, which I applaud. But a lot of it also feels like a soap opera.


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