Monday, March 26, 2007


Listen to this cast: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Stockard Channing, Maureen Stapleton, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara (from "Best in Show, "For Your Consideration," etc.), Joanna Gleeson, Kevin Spacey.

Bound to be a great flick, right?

We watched "Heartburn" last evening with high hopes. This 1986 film, directed by Mike Nichols, grew out of the semi-autobiographical novel by Nora Ephron. Well, sorry to say, it hadn't ripened enough. Or maybe it had rotted a bit in the sun of all that huge talent.

I had never seen it before--couldn't imagine how I'd missed one with so many of my favorite actors involved. As an added dash of gossip-spice, the louse depicted here by Nicholson was modeled on Ephron's former husband Carl Bernstein, one of the two young reporters who brought down All the President's Men. (Played by Dustin Hoffman in that film.)

Despite all of this to pique one's interest, plus music by Carly Simon, the film just doesn't make it, alas. The Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever gives it three stars, but they were just being kind. (They called it "a tepid romance.")

There is, however, a happy little surprise in "Heartburn." Early in the story, Streep's character delivers a baby (quite a lot of time spent on that). As the film lurches forward, the baby girl is shown at, oh, about ten or twelve months and then again at perhaps twenty months. The children used in the film are absolutely delightful, full of charm, and unusually responsive to Streep's on-film mothering--being fed, read to, hoisted off and on trains and airplanes, encouraged in several (possibly Symbolic) rounds of "Itsy Bitsy Spider." (Ephron, the itsy-bitsy spider, apparently did go up the spout again.)
I kept wondering: how do you get such very small children to be so responsive to a stranger in a film? I've seen five and six-year olds who do amazingly well in front of a camera; Haley Joel Osment leaps to mind. But a toddler?

Well, these toddlers, yes. Names are Dana and Mary Streep. And they added a sparkle to "Heartburn" that all the rest of the great cast couldn't quite generate. Maybe it was inherited talent; surely it was love. Delightful, in any case.

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