Sunday 29 January 2023

Movie Review: Heartburn (1986)

Genre: Romantic Drama
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson
Running Time: 109 minutes

Synopsis: Food writer Rachel Samstat (Meryl Streep) falls in love with political columnist Mark Forman (Jack Nicholson), despite his reputation as a hopeless womanizer. They get married, move into a Washington DC house in need of extensive renovations, and start a family. Rachel is enjoying a blissfully happy life until she realizes Mark is cheating on her.

What Works Well: Nora Ephron adapted her own semi-autobiographical book for the screen, and the dream duo of Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson ensure an eminently watchable experience. Director Mike Nichols adopts a patient stance with long uninterrupted takes to develop a sense of couplehood familiarity. The mix of chuckles and acrimony is true to life, and the supporting cast (featuring Stockard Channing, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara, Maureen Stapleton, and Kevin Spacey in an early role) is full of talent.

What Does Not Work As Well: Several scenes appear improvised and hint at lazy writing. The story is only interested in Rachel's perspective, and ultimately she is the less interesting character. With Mark never afforded an opportunity to reveal his inner demons, Nichols abandons the philanderer instead of probing essential motivations, resulting in a superficial rather than insightful exploration of a failed marriage.

Conclusion: Acting talent salvages shallow plotting.

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