Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid; black comedy, USA, 1972; D: Elaine May, S: Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepherd, Jeannie Berlin, Eddie Albert

New York. Lenny meets Lila in a bar and decides to marry her spontaneously. However, during their honeymoon in Miami, he soon finds out that the gaps between them are much more problematic than he thought since her "unknown" side is actually turning him off. He meets the beautiful Kelly at the beach and falls in love with her. After divorcing Lila, Lenny drives all the way to Kelly's college, but she suddenly acts cold and ignores him. However, he still manages to charm her and even persuade her angry father to accept their marriage.

As the unwritten rule says, a movie is sometimes only important if it gets a remake, and after the Farrelly's "The Heartbreak Kid" many were again curious to divert their attention to the original from 1972. Seeing it again, one can agree that the original is better, but not by that much. It is the second out of only four films directed by Elaine May, who here got a better treatment than her debut "A New Leaf" and was even given a screenplay by the acclaimed writer Neil Simon, resulting in several awards, including two Oscar nominations (best supporting actress Jeannie Berlin and supporting actor Eddie Albert) and three Golden Globe nominations. Just like in "Leaf", May again decided to direct a cynical jab at marriage which is why a certain part of conservative viewers never embraced the film for its protagonist who falls in love with another woman on his honeymoon, but Charles Grodin is fine in playing him and even gave the role of a lifetime in the sequence where Kelly's three "boyfriend" students tackle him, but he switches the tables by pretending to be from the Department of Justice, bureau for narcotics, and uses one of their cigarettes to threaten to get him banned from college. The structure of the storyline is chaotic - the first 30 minutes are bland and uninteresting - the movie is overlong, several jokes backfire (the infamous egg salad scene) whereas the happy ending does not circle out the film at all, but it has several poignant touches, such as the one that implies that Kelly is only interested in men who are already taken, which explains why she suddenly gives Lenny the cold shoulder as soon as he divorces for her. The cliches of the romantic comedy genre are twisted neatly whereas several lines are comical (upon entering a restaurant and finding out it is out of pecan pie, Lenny complains to the waiter: "They should have said that to us at the door... they should have warned us that there was a danger of running out of pecan pie!").


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