Heartburn is a beautifully crafted film with flawless performances and many splendid moments, yet the overall effect is a bit disappointing.
From the start Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson are never quite a couple. He’s a Washington political columnist and she’s a New York food writer. They meet at a wedding and he overpowers her. Soon they’re having their own wedding.
Nora Ephron adapted her own novel for the screen which in turn borrowed heavily from her marriage with Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein.
While the day-to-day details are drawn with a striking clarity, Ephron’s script never goes much beyond the mannerisms of middle-class life. Even with the sketchy background information, it’s hard to tell what these people are feeling or what they want.
Where the film does excel is in creating the surface and texture of their life. Director Mike Nichols knows the territory well enough to throw in some subtle but biting satire and Nicholson (who replaced Mandy Patinkin during production) and Streep fill in the canvas.