Parents' Guide to

Irreconcilable Differences

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Dated comedy about divorce, with sex, nudity, drugs.

Movie PG 1984 113 minutes
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While no doubt at the time an engaging twist on divorce -- a child divorcing her estranged parents -- this movie, while occasionally funny, doesn't quite stand the test of time. Through flashbacks and present-day courtroom testimony, Irreconcilable Differences bounces around between being a bittersweet romance, a parody of all things Hollywood, and a vehicle for young E.T.-era Drew Barrymore to say precocious things. It manages to get all three of these elements to work at times, but they don't always work together. Even with their backstory, it's hard to know if you're supposed to like or dislike the parents -- if they're inherently selfish or merely driven to that state by The Seductive Evils of Tinsel Town.

But there are some truly funny moments that have held up. The parody of box office bomb Heaven's Gate -- a Civil War musical entitled Atlanta that leads to the downfall of Ryan O'Neal's pretentious and egotistical auteur character -- is perfectly absurd in its excess. The parody of egomania in the worlds of writing and film never feels dated. Nonetheless, the movie feels like a "high concept" idea ("A child divorces her parents") tacked on to the story of how a couple met, fell in love, and then fell out of love. The pieces aren't entirely discordant, but they don't exactly fit, either.

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