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Heartburn is a 1986 American drama film directed by Mike Nichols. 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.


New York Citymarker food writer Rachel Samstat and Washington, D.C.marker 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 Georgetownmarker 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 Manhattanmarker, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginiamarker.

Mandy Patinkin originally was cast as Mark Forman but was replaced after filming began.

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

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."

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."

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 ovet 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."

Box office

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

Awards and nominations

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


  1. Heartburn at Turner Classic Movies
  2. Chicago Sun-Times review
  3. Variety review
  4. Pauline Kael, "Pairs", The Current Cinema, The New Yorker, August 11, 1986, page 77

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