Heartburn (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes


Heartburn (1986)



Critic Consensus: Despite an astonishing collection of talent across the board, Heartburn's aimless plot inspires mild indigestion instead of romantic ardor.

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Though she always played coy about the fact in interviews, Nora Ephron's novel Heartburn is a thinly disguised "à clef" rehash of her marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. Meryl Streep plays Rachel, an influential food critic who marries charismatic columnist Mark (Jack Nicholson) after a whirlwind courtship. Warned that Mark is constitutionally incapable of settling down with any one woman, Rachel gives up her own job to make certain that her marriage works. When Rachel announces that she's pregnant, Mark virtually jumps out of his skin with delight. But as the news sinks in, Mark chafes at the impending responsibilities of fatherhood, and the philandering begins -- as if it had ever really stopped! Our favorite scene: Rachel and her friends being robbed at her therapy group -- that's Kevin Spacey as the robber, in his film debut. Meryl Streep's real-life child Mamie Gummer also appeared in the film as Rachel's daughter.

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Meryl Streep
as Rachel Samstat
Jack Nicholson
as Mark Forman
Jeff Daniels
as Richard
Karen Akers
as Thelma Rice
Aida Linares
as Juanita
Ron McLarty
as Detective O'Brien
Kenneth Welsh
as Dr. Appel
Kevin Spacey
as Subway Thief
John Wood
as British Moderator
Sidney Armus
as Jeweler
Lela Ivey
as Hairdresser
Tracey Jackson
as Hairdresser's Friend
Libby Titus
as Rachel's Sister
Angela Pietropinto
as Hospital Receptionist
Cynthia O'Neal
as Magazine Colleague
Susan Forristal
as Magazine Colleague
Dana Ivey
as Wedding Speaker
John Rothman
as Jonathan Rice
Elijah Lindsay
as Anesthetist
Jack Neam
as Butcher
Kimi Parks
as Arthur and Julie's Daughter
Patricia Falkenhain
as Dinner Party Hostess
Margaret Thomson
as Irritated Wedding Guest
Charles Denney
as Dinner-Party Guest
Gregg Almquist
as Dinner-Party Guest
Lane Garrison
as Dinner-Party Guest
Ryan Hilliard
as Dinner-Party Guest
Dana Streep
as Dinner-Party Guest
Mary Streep
as Dinner-Party Guest
Cyrilla Dorn
as Dinner-Party Guest
May Pang
as Dinner-Party Guest
Michael Regan
as Father of the Bride
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Critic Reviews for Heartburn

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (5)

What's profound about it is its intimacy. You feel as if you were there, and it happened to you, and its heroism, the heroism of everyday life, is yours.

January 2, 2018 | Full Review…

This is the most disappointing film of the year, considering its pedigree -- a Mike Nichols film from a Nora Ephron script, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

January 16, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Uneven script, but brilliant performances.

June 21, 2005 | Rating: 4/5
Top Critic

Unlike the babies that [Meryl Streep] carries convincingly through Rachel's pregnancies, the story has little weight.

May 21, 2003 | Full Review…

Here and there, we see glimmers of the greatness of both Nicholson and Streep... Those moments are adrift in a sea of ennui.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Heartburn is another example of the crisis American cinema is undergoing. [Full Review in Spanish]

March 11, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Heartburn


Norah Ephron's book launched this film, which tackles the tricky subject of infidelity without much complexity. The film covers the emotional rollercoaster that was Ephron's second marriage, using stand-ins Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Most of the film is about their relationship, its beginnings, and the machinations of their life together. Near the end we actually get to the issues of the marriage, i.e. the infidelity on the part of Mark (Nicholson). The message of the film is that you shouldn't be with someone who doesn't respect you. What makes this lukewarm is that Mark's point of view is never expressed, and it's very one sided. Rachel (Streep) runs off, but is filled with regret as she is a single mother, and very pregnant. It seems like she only wants Mark to race after her, as she waits for him to call or send flowers, neither of which he does. The ending remains anticlimactic because Rachel doesn't really learn anything that isn't easy for her to reach. She just stops acting needy and changes her mind. It doesn't say anything bigger than "cheating is bad" and that's a message that has already been hammered to death, in much better films that include abuse and dependency. Without any complexity or understanding of this marriage as a whole, it's too easy an ending, and not worth the watch.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

The marriage between a columnist and his wife degrades when she discovers his infidelity. Nora Ephron makes me hate white people. These two privileges, upper-class, yuppie white people smack of the kind of white sense of entitlement that would make me turn into Malcolm X. Thinking about Ephron's films, I can't remember a single non-white character who isn't carrying a tray or, as is the case in this film, saying, "Meesus Forman" in a caricature of a Hispanic maid; her main complaint about Rachel nemesis in the film is that she's "messy," as though the only way this woman can evaluate one's character is through her work. Now, I suppose you're saying that since race isn't a concern for Ephron, it's unfair to bring it up, or you're saying that Woody Allen has only one African American character in his entire oeuvre (Cookie from Deconstructing Harry) who merely serves to set up a racist joke. It's true that Ephron isn't writing about race, but it's nonetheless inappropriate to have the only depiction of nonwhites in subservient roles; if race isn't one of Ephron's concerns, then don't include any nonwhites in any role; have a white maid. Eliding nonwhites seems less offensive to me than confining nonwhites. And I admit one of Woody Allen's weaknesses is his single-color pallet, but in his entire film collection, there is only one instance where a nonwhite is confined to a subservient role, and this a non-speaking maid in Hannah and Her Sisters. As racist depictions go, Allen's not good, but Ephron is horrid. The detestable depiction of race in Heartburn isn't the only thing that bothered me about the film. The conflict literally doesn't start until the film is forty-seven minutes old. For an eternity, we have to watch these yuppies be unpardonably happy with their courtship, their child, and their seemingly insouciant ability to get over their fears of marriage and commitment - serious fears that are glossed over and defeated with some simple spooning. It's so boring in a way that only the overly saccharine Ephron can bore one. The half-star bonus point is for Jack Nicholson who has some good moments and for one scene with a jewelry salesman that was well-written. Overall, after Julie and Julia and Bewitched, one would think that I'd learn my lesson.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Bittersweet comic drama that knowing the actual background inspiration is at times uncomfortable to watch. Nicholson is fine but Meryl's is the performance that really stands out. A high quality supporting cast however isn't really put to good enough use.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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