The Heartbreak Kid (1972, 2007)

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“Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane.” –Taylor Swift, musician and professional heartbreaker

The Heartbreak Kid (1972) can easily be summed up in one sentence: Lenny impulsively marries Lila, but on their honeymoon he realizes he doesn’t love her and meets the real girl of his dreams, Kelly.

The style and characters in the movie are reminiscent of The Graduate, which was released five years earlier. In The Graduate, we can blame Mrs. Robinson for Benjamin Braddock’s bad decisions. But Lenny Cantrow (which sounds suspiciously like Cantrell) has no excuse; he is simply making some very bad decisions. Most of the time we watch a movie because we sympathize with the protagonist, but in The Heartbreak Kid, I was hooked for the sick pleasure of witnessing the main character drive his life down a road of idiocy and almost wreck it.

I also made my way through the Farrelly Brothers’ The Heartbreak Kid (2007) starring Ben Stiller, thinking I might write a comparison of the two films. I came to the conclusion that these two movies don’t even deserve to be in the same article with each other. Roger Ebert said in his review of the 2007 version, “As the Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter do not know, there are certain kinds of scenes that are deal breakers, rupturing the fabric of comedy and becoming just simply, uncomfortably, unpleasant.” Granted, it’s difficult for anyone to measure up to the genius comedy writing of playwright Neil Simon, who wrote the 1972 screenplay. Instead of relying on shock value (like peeing on a jellyfish sting) to surface the humor of this already-racy plot, many of Simon’s scenes unfold as a stage production in real time.

One example is when Lenny asks Kelly’s father for a marriage blessing…while he is still on the honeymoon with Lila. I watched the scene twice, and the second time I focused solely on the reaction of Kelly’s mother, Mrs. Corcoran. Her expression slowly changes from delight that Kelly has found such a passionate young man to horror that crazy Lenny is a newlywed. Neil Simon and director Elaine May have “set the table” for the audience and characters to elicit such comedic reactions around every corner of this movie. The scene I mentioned above forms the backbone of the trailer, which can be viewed here:

 

 

Spoiler alert: Lenny and Kelly get married at the end of the movie. But the last shot shows Lenny at the wedding reception sitting all alone, and he doesn’t look quite as happy as he should. Will Lenny meet someone else who is the girl of his dreams? What will happen then? The Heartbreak Kid should remind us that marriage is a serious commitment based on more than feelings. If Lenny can’t stop following his heart and libido, maybe he should just stick to Tinder for a while.

 

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