Narcissistic Hollywood loves films about itself. The archetypal stories are told over and over again, in new and inventive ways. The lucky break, the grueling climb to the top, the way fame and money and power change your life, and then the inevitable fall. Irreconcilable Differences (1984) is an original twist on the old A Star Is Born tale about a loving Hollywood couple...one’s star rises while the other’s falls. Irreconcilable adds a dimension ripped from headlines of the time: the child who divorces her neglectful parents.
This entertaining and often moving film stars Ryan O’Neal as film director Albert Brodsky, Shelley Long as his wife, writer Lucy Van Patten Brodsky, and Drew Barrymore as their daughter Casey, caught in the middle of her parents’ battle royale.
Bogdanovich’s stellar directing career was almost shattered when he cast Shepherd in one of Hollywood’s all-time flops, the Cole Porter-tuned musical At Long Last Love (1975). In Irreconcilable Differences, Albert falls in love with Blake Chandler, (played perfectly by a very young Sharon Stone), almost destroying Lucy in the process. When Albert remakes Gone With the Wind as a musical with Blake as a singing Scarlett O’Hara, his career is doomed. But success is the best revenge for Lucy, who writes a tell-all that goes to #1 on the bestseller list.
The film was not a hit and it quickly faded into Hollywood obscurity, but the performances shine, even in the scratchy VHS-lifted DVD transfer I treasure. Ryan O’Neal and Shelley Long have rarely been better than in this seriocomic love story. Both actors bring the story and the relationship to vivid life, as adept with a wisecrack or pratfall as they are with tenderness and vulnerability. And I count this as Drew Barrymore’s very best juvenile performance, including E.T. The Barrymore acting chops were obviously genetic, because she’s a natural in the dimensional supporting role of the daughter who divorces her parents.