Picks and Pans Review: Irreconcilable Differences

updated 10/08/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/08/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In its own lackluster way, this comedy about a youngster who wants a divorce from her warring parents represents a disturbing genre, the sit-con: Although the situation has potential, the execution is little more than a scam. After Drew (E.T.) Barry-more drags her parents into the courtroom, the testimony triggers lengthy flashbacks that occupy the bulk of the film. But the flashbacks don't focus on the girl's problems. Instead, they tell the cocktail-chatter history of her parents, a professor-turned-director and his writer wife. Played with a sly, wink-of-the-eye affection by Ryan O'Neal and Shelley (Cheers) Long, who is endearing if not always inventive, the couple find themselves seduced and abandoned by the high life. But what first-time director Charles Shyer really wants to lambaste is show business. In fact, the few original jokes in the screenplay, which Shyer co-authored with Nancy Meyers (his collaborator on Goldie Hawn's Private Benjamin), are clever commentaries on the state of the artless in Southern California. O'Neal and TV model Sharon Stone, who plays his discovery, make a musical Gone With the Wind. When Stone belts a brassy Streisand-like number amid the corpses after the burning of Atlanta, the comedy shows a fresh sensibility. The bittersweet reconciliation at the end plays more like patchwork than resolution. What little interest the film generates is about the real-life inspirations for its characters. Is this partly the story of the marriage of Peter Bogdanovich (pre-Cybill Shepherd) and production designer Polly Piatt? Irreconcilable Differences' is a Beverly Hills cinéma à clef party game masquerading as a movie. (PG)

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