Monday, October 15, 2012

The Heartbreak Kid (1972) vs. The HeartbreakKid (2007)

Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid is such an overwhelmingly black comedy that I cannot think of another movie to even approach its level of discomfort until Scorsese made The King of Comedy a full decade later. Charles Grodin has never been better nor more excruciating, and May's improv-based style allows the situation to grow even more unsettling as characters morph into human beings that break away from the limiting perspective of Grodin's obliviously manipulative protagonist. It is one of the best comedies of all time.

But so, to my surprise, is the Farrelly brothers' remake of the film, which trades the complex character interactions of the original for their trademark gross-out humor. There's Something About Mary contained an unexpected critique of misogyny, and The Heartbreak Kid takes it even further. Ben Stiller turns his usual bumbling but "lovable" character on its head, making him out to be a monster who uses women without remorse in pursuit of his own stunted ideas of self-fulfillment. Grodin's Lenny got married just to get laid, but Eddie gets married to prevent his lover from going off to pursue her own dreams. If the comedy of the film is lighter, the tone is no less savage.

My full comparison of the two films is up now at Spectrum Culture.

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