Heartburn (film)

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Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced by Robert Greenhut
Mike Nichols
Screenplay by Nora Ephron
Based on Heartburn 
by Nora Ephron
Starring Meryl Streep
Jack Nicholson
Stockard Channing
Jeff Daniels
Miloš Forman
Steven Hill
Catherine O'Hara
Music by Carly Simon
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Edited by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • July 25, 1986 (1986-07-25)
Running time
108 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $25,314,189 (domestic)[2]

Heartburn is a 1986 American comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Stockard Channing, Jeff Daniels and Miloš Forman. The screenplay by Nora Ephron is based on her semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which was inspired by her tempestuous second marriage, to Carl Bernstein, and his affair with Margaret Jay, the daughter of former British Prime Minister James Callaghan. The film is about a New York food writer who meets a Washington newspaper columnist at a wedding. They become happily married until she discovers her husband is having an affair. It is Nicholson and Streep's first film together, before they co-starred in Ironweed, and is also Kevin Spacey's film debut as a street thug with a brief cameo.

The film's theme song, "Coming Around Again" by Carly Simon, became one of 1986's Billboard hits, reaching #18.


New York City food writer Rachel Samstat and Washington, D.C. political columnist Mark Forman meet at a mutual friend's wedding and, after a whirlwind courtship, they marry, despite Rachel's reservations. They purchase a dilapidated Georgetown townhouse in Washington and the ongoing and seemingly never-ending renovations create some stress in their relationship. Rachel, overjoyed to discover she is pregnant, is determined to make her marriage work and becomes a stay-at-home mom. When she discovers evidence of Mark's extramarital affair with socialite Thelma Rice during her pregnancy with her second child, she leaves him and takes their daughter Annie to New York, where she moves in with her father and tries to jump start her career. Mark eventually convinces her to return home, but when it's obvious his philandering will never end, Rachel leaves him for good.



The film was shot on location in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia. Mandy Patinkin was originally cast as Mark Forman but was replaced by Jack Nicholson.[3] The film's score was composed by Carly Simon. The main theme, "Coming Around Again," as well as the end credits song, "Itsy Bitsy Spider," are included in Simon's 1987 album Coming Around Again.

Critical reception[edit]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a bitter, sour movie about two people who are only marginally interesting" and placed much of the blame on screenwriter Nora Ephron, who "should have based her story on somebody else's marriage. That way, she could have provided the distance and perspective that good comedy needs." He felt "she apparently had too much anger to transform the facts into entertaining fiction."[4] Variety thought it was "a beautifully crafted film with flawless performances and many splendid moments, yet the overall effect is a bit disappointing" and added, "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."[5] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote: "The movie is full of talented people, who [...] are fun to watch, but after a while the scenes that don't point anywhere begin to add up, and you start asking yourself: 'What is this movie about?' You are still asking when it's over, and by then a flatness, a disappointment, is likely to have settled over the fillips you'd enjoyed," noting that "[t]hough Ephron is a gifted and a witty light essayist, her novel is no more than a variant of a princess fantasy: Rachel, the wife, is blameless; Mark, the husband, is simply a bad egg—an adulterer. And, reading the book, you don't have to take Rachel the bratty narrator very seriously; her self-pity is so thinly masked by humor and unabashed mean-spiritedness that you feel that the author is exploiting her life—trashing it by presenting it as a juicy, fast-action comic strip about a marriage of celebrities."[6]

Box office[edit]

The film opened in 843 theaters in the United States on July 25, 1986, and earned $5,783,079 during its opening weekend, ranking #2 at the box office behind Aliens. It eventually grossed a total of $25,314,189 in the US.[2]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Meryl Streep was named Best Actress at the Valladolid International Film Festival for her performance.


External links[edit]