Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

“I’m just a kid, and I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. But I think you should know better when you’re all grown up.”

The daughter (Drew Barrymore) of a Hollywood director (Ryan O’Neal) and a novelist (Shelley Long) tells a judge the story of how her quibbling parents’ marriage fell apart — starting with her dad (O’Neal) falling for a beautiful young starlet (Sharon Stone) — and why she believes she’s better off living apart from them.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Allen Garfield Films
  • Courtroom Drama
  • Divorce
  • Flashback Films
  • Hollywood
  • Marital Problems
  • Rise-and-Fall
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Ryan O’Neal Films

After her breakthrough role in E.T. (1982), 9-year-old Drew Barrymore starred in both Firestarter (1984) and this flashback romantic comedy, told from the perspective of a young girl interested in “divorcing” her parents.

Barrymore’s role is actually somewhat peripheral, given that our primary focus is on the rise-and-fall of two aspiring artists who initially work well together:

then descend into farcical ineptitude as their own desires (O’Neal’s lust for Stone, Long’s longing for revenge) replace any sense of moral obligation or concern as parents.

Interestingly, this is foreshadowed during the first party Long and O’Neal attend upon arriving in Hollywood, when a guest informs Long that she’s a parent but “isn’t that into parenting” at the moment.

Because this couple can’t move beyond their petty selfishness to recognize the harm they’re causing their loved ones, they lose everything they value. I wish Barrymore had even more screen time, since she’s infinitely more sympathetic than either O’Neal or Long — but the adult stars do well in their roles, and are suitably convincing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the leads

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


3 thoughts on “Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

  1. First viewing. Skip it.

    This is a flat-out *godawful* movie. … Don’t get me started.

    ~ except… I’ll say this: O’Neal and Long play a writing team and their first script – which O’Neal directs – becomes a smash-hit movie. We’re told about it… a lot: It breaks box office records! It’s brilliant! It’s a masterpiece! O’Neal is suddenly the new Francis Ford Coppola! … I did find that ‘funny’ since the movie that we’re watching is The Polar Opposite of all of that.

    Mind-numbingly bad.

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