Am I the only person on the planet who is not taken in by the charms of Meryl Streep? Whenever I see her get weepy and red-eyed in a drama, I want to run away. Whenever she’s being quirky in a comedy, I can’t bring myself to watch. I have never seen Mama Mia! Can you fucking believe it?? I should turn in my Midwesterner Membership card.
But the movie Heartburn takes the Streep cake. (OK, there’s that “A dingo at my baby,” movie, too.)
I think anytime you’re beginning with revenge fantasy material, you’re in murky waters. Heartburn, in case you aren’t aware, is the “fictional” story of a woman who is cheated on by her husband while she’s pregnant with their second child. I say fictional in quotation marks because it’s really the thinly-disguised bio-pic of Nora Ephron, who was cheated on by Bob Woodward while pregnant with their second child and then wrote the novel Heartburn. Who can really blame her for writing it? They say, “Write what you know,” and when what you know is sensational and revenge-driven, well, it’s gonna sell books and tickets and eventually you’re going to get to make Sleepless in Seattle.
I have no idea if Nora Ephron in her real life crisis was anything like Meryl Streep playing the fictional character based on Nora Ephron but I hope not. There’s something about Meryl stopping the action to say things like, “God, I love our life. Porkchops, missing socks, blah, blah, blah…” that makes you not feel quite so horrible about the fact that Jack Nicholson is cheating on her. I say Jack Nicholson because he plays the loosely-disguised Bob Woodward but, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s Jack Nicholson and he was cast for a reason. Just looking at that mugÂ of his makes you think, “Philanderer!” You also think, “Oh, theeeeeere’s Johnny.”
So I vent my anti-fan frustration with these scenes from my short script Heartburn, which is only about 3 minutes.
INT. BEDROOM – DAY
RACHEL SAMSTAT, 34, pregnant, disheveled, bloated and exhausted, sits on the bed playing with her daughter, ANNIE, 18 months, as her husband, MARK FORMAN, 40, rummages through his sock drawer.
MARK: I can’t find any matching socks. What happens to them? What happens to the missing socks? I know what it is, it’s the dryer. The dryer is their only chance to escape and they all know it. They plan it in the hamper the night before. “Tomorrow, the dryer. I’m going”
RACHEL: Where have I heard that routine before? It’s oddly familiar.
Mark moves towards the door.
MARK: I have to go out and buy some new socks. I’ll be back in four hours.
RACHEL: You said you bought new socks last week. Are you cheating on me?
MARK: Of course not. I need socks.
RACHEL: Yes, you’re cheating on me. No man cares enough to go out and buy socks. Not on a special sock-buying trip.
Mark throws his hands up in the air.
MARK: This is ludicrous! This is insanity. Look at this mug? Is this the mug of a man who cheats? The mug of a man who stays up all night snorting cocaine and drinking red wine while watching movies in his private home theater with a bunch of call girls? No!
Rachel gathers Annie into her arms and gets off the bed.
RACHEL: I’m fleeing to New York!
INT. SAMSTAT BROWNSTONE — LIVING ROOM– DAY
Rachel lies on the couch in her father’s brownstone, eating ice cream and paging through The New Yorker while the housekeeper, DELLA, 32, looks after Annie in the kitchen.
DELLA (O.S.): Hey, Ms. Samstat, do you want me to get you anything at the market?
RACHEL: No, that’s OK. I’m happy with my ice cream. Well, I’d like some marshmallow fluff, if it’s no biggie.
She turns the pages of the magazine. The doorbell rings.
DELLA (O.S.): Oh, Mr. Forman, I’m not sure if she’s in, let me…
Mark strolls into the room carrying a cup of coffee, a newspaper and his sport coat.
MARK: Come home. I want you to come home.
RACHEL: No. I can live here with my dad rent-free and we have a maid.
MARK: Come home. We’re a family. I mean, as long as you stay home with the kids and I can disappear on sock buying missions, we’re a goddamn family.
RACHEL: Anyone can see just by looking at you that you’re a cheater. Is that lipstick on your collar? Why is your fly open? I think I have trust issues with you. And boundary issues.
MARK: Well, I tried.
He turns to the camera and mugs with hands and eyebrows raised in a gesture that says, “You can’t fight city hall!” before he walks out.
Rachel cries so that the rims of her eyes get red while at the same time she rubs her hands over her pregnant belly.
Cue Carly Simon song “Coming Around Again,” which will stay in your brain for approximately six-and-a-half days before it gets replaced by “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk3.