Irreconcilable Differences

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Irreconcilable Differences Movie Poster Image
Dated comedy about divorce, with sex, nudity, drugs.
  • PG
  • 1984
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Parents learn the errors of their self-centered ways when their young daughter takes them to court in order to divorce them. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Pratfall violence -- arguing parents throw each other into a swimming pool. 

Sex

Brief female nudity, breasts. Married couple talks of their sex lives. A man and woman in bed talk about how good the sex was that they just had. A young girl is discovered to be reading a pornographic novel. Infidelity. Diaphragm joke. 

Language

"F" word implied in one scene. "Goddamn," "Christ's sake." A little girl is found to be reading a pornographic novel -- the father reads the beginning of the book aloud where teen group sex is referenced; he stops reading before it gets graphic. 

Consumerism

Perrier mentioned by name. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some cocaine use. A little girl drinks a glass of champagne at a party and acts tipsy. Margarita and wine drinking by adults. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Irreconcilable Differences is a 1984 comedy in which Drew Barrymore plays a little girl who goes to court to divorce her self-centered parents. It's rated PG, but there are plenty of R-rated moments, including a brief scene of naked female breasts, cigarette smoking, some drinking, and cocaine use. A little girl is shown reading a pornographic novel -- her father starts to read it aloud and describes the beginning of a group sex scene between the football team and a high school cheerleader who has just turned 15. The little girl is also shown drinking a glass of champagne at a party and then acting tipsy. There's talk of the quality of sex a married couple is having, and how good the sex is when they are divorced. The parents argue in front of the child, and while their characters are meant to be parodies of over-the-top, successful narcissistic Hollywood types, the movie is trying to convey a message about the ways in which divorce impacts the lives of the children caught in the middle. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES, Casey Brodsky (Drew Barrymore) has had enough. The 10-year-old is sick of the fighting and the self-centered behavior of her divorced parents, famous director Albert Brodsky (Ryan O'Neal) and famous novelist Lucy Van Patten Brodsky (Shelley Long). So she consults with her lawyer and sues her parents for divorce. While there's a media circus outside the courtroom, inside, Albert, Lucy, and Casey retrace the history of their family. Albert and Lucy talk of when they first met and how they fell in love. They discuss the early years of their marriage and the transformation of Albert from a geeky film buff professor into a highly esteemed director. They discuss the birth of Casey. As Casey grows up, Albert's success clearly goes to his head and he has an extramarital affair with a young starlet (Sharon Stone). As Lucy struggles to get by, Albert lives in an enormous mansion in Beverly Hills, and their mutual resentment toward each other overshadows the love and care they should be giving to Casey. As Albert loses everything after making a musical about the Civil War that bombs at the box office, Lucy's tell-all novel about her marriage to and divorce from Albert becomes a best-seller. While success goes to her head, it's Albert's turn to struggle, but Casey remains overlooked by both of them. No matter how the divorce proceedings turn out, it's clear that Casey wants her parents to see the error of their ways and learn to be less egotistical -- and to be better parents. 

Is it any good?

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies that are about divorce. This is a comedy, but what do you think is the deeper message Irreconcilable Differences is trying to express? 

  • In Hollywood, "high concept" is the term given to a movie that can be easily summarized in one sentence. What would be the one sentence summary of this movie? What are some other examples of movies whose stories can be summarized in just a few words? 

  • What are some of the ways in which the movie seems dated? If you could remake the movie or suggest an update, how would you do it?

Movie details

For kids who love the '80s

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate