Thursday 13 October 2011

Devouring Films: Heartburn

Or... My Response to the Question 'What Could Be Wrong With a Film 1) Written By Nora Ephron, 2) Directed by Mike Nichols, and 3) Starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson?

As it turns out, a lot. The main problem with this film seems to be that it was made in the eighties, which means it has few redeeming features- the clothes are awful, the computers are rubbish, and people are so not aware of their carbon footprint (they fly from New York to Washington DC! Have they never heard of a train?!) More than anything, I feel like the eighties, being so awful as they were, somehow meant that no one could make films that had any kind of meaning or artistic power. I mean, that's the only explanation I have for Terms of Endearment winning all those Oscars that one time, because that is seriously one of the worst things I've ever seen.

And speaking of Terms of Endearment, there were apparently only two male actors who were worth casting in the eighties- Jack Nicholson and Jeff Daniels are hot off the backs of the grand success of Terms of Endearment (success being apparently in equal proportion to how horrible a film is) and straight into another film that fails to set the world on fire. And let's talk about the Jack Nicholson casting decision- does anyone really start a film by getting that man married?! He's the ultimate bachelor, and while I love him, I just don't find him convincing as a husband, much as I would like to believe that he and Meryl Streep (who was, by the way, excellent as always) would get married, I just didn't. Also, a very small point, I'm pretty sure that Mark is meant to be Jewish, and Nicholson really isn't. Just sayin'.

The main problem apart from the whole eighties thing, was that the order of the film really doesn't match up with the order in the book, and that gives away all of the dramatic edge of the story. Nicols and Ephron have gone for a linear tale of love gone wrong, which is fine, and obviously the way things actually happened, but dramatically, it sucks. The book begins with a seven-months pregnant woman fleeing from her cheating husband with an infant child, the film begins with Meryl Streep eyeing up Jack Nicholson at a wedding and obviously enjoying his infinite sexiness (like any normal woman). I mean, that's nice and all, but where's the drama everyone?! If you don't know what's going to happen (which I did, having read and greatly enjoyed the book) then the film literally has no direction for the first 40 minutes or so. And it sucks.

All I can think is that everyone involved with the movie was snorting coke, and couldn't really understand that what they were doing was a great disservice to film and their own legacies- although, now that I think about it, while I love The Graduate and Angels in America, they are pretty linear in terms of structure, so maybe Nichols can't cope with the idea of a non-linear story... I just don't know! I can't tell you that it was entirely awful, because Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep sing songs about babies, and it's fucking amazing (I was going to post a video of that fabulous, but I can't find one. So here's Meryl singing Itsy Bitsy Spider with a small child instead):
Oh yeah, and that song in the background as they're walking to the plane? Totally the only song in the movie. I'm deadly serious. And at the beginning it says 'Music by Carly Simon', and by the end I was like, 'yes that's true... BECAUSE THERE'S ONLY ONE SONG IN THE MOVIE!'

Sorry. But honestly, that's what this film does to you. In a different time, with different people, maybe this could have worked. But as it is, I suggest you skip the movie and just go straight to the book, which has more funniness and charm in one page than is in this entire movie, Meryl Streep excepted. It just could have been so much better...

Update: I have to rescind my point that nothing good was made in the 80s, because When Harry Met Sally was freaking awesome. But apart from that...
I also forgot to mention that Kevin Spacey, looking extremely young and 80s-ish (basically Daniel Day Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette) is in this movie! It was weird, but also awesome. So there, I managed to think of another good thing about the film- yay!


  1. Too bad this film didn't work. I mean it looks so good on paper. Really just having Streep and Nicholson there seems like it would be enough. alas, alas.

    Also you prob hate me cos I fly from NYC to Boston. Shorter distance than NYC to DC. 30 min flight vs. 5 hour train ride. Flight's usually cheaper too.

  2. Oh Alley... I think though that I'm doing that thing where I don't really realise how big America is, and while I'm like 'omg, flying from one eastern state to another!' it's probably further from say London to Paris, which I would definitely fly. So yeah, I'm kind of re-thinking that right now.

    Also, OMG this film should have been so much better! But it was baaaad... especially compared to the book/everything that everyone else associated with the film has ever done. I still blame the 80s...

  3. Haha no worries at all! I remember trying to explain to someone from Dublin that I hadn't been to Chicago because it was roughly a 16 hour drive from where I lived, even if it is in the same country as me. (I've since been there, so take that! haha)

    It's so sad about this movie cos really, without your review, this looks like it should be good. It's such a shame.

  4. See, that's like ridiculous to me when I can be in a different country in like a couple of hours! And that's just Chicago- how long would it take you to drive to California or something?! Crazy!