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Film / The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

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The Heartbreak Kid is a 1972 romantic comedy-drama film with a darkly satirical edge, directed by Elaine May and scripted by Neil Simon.

Charles Grodin plays Lenny Cantrow, a sporting goods salesman who marries a Nice Jewish Girl named Lila (Jeannie Berlin). While on their honeymoon in Florida, Lila's odd habits, neuroses, and awkwardness become increasingly unbearable, and Lenny realizes that he doesn't actually like her very much. When he sees blonde WASP goddess Kelly (Cybill Shepherd) on the beach, Lenny is instantly enchancted and goes all-out in pursuit of her, not letting the fact that he's married get in the way.

The film was remade in 2007 by the Farrelly Brothers with Ben Stiller, Malin Åkerman and Michelle Monaghan in the main roles.


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"There's no deceit in these Tropes":

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Lila for Lenny—although there really isn't anything wrong with her. The main reason she's abhorrent is that Lenny figures out too late that he doesn't love her.
  • Actor Allusion: Filmgoers who had Cybill Shepherd's acting debut as the pretty-but-manipulative Jacy in The Last Picture Show fresh in their minds in 1972 would've been amused to see that Kelly is a more intelligent (and comical) variation of that character type.
  • Betty and Veronica: Lila and Kelly.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lenny marries a beautiful, wealthy young woman but basically ruins his life in the process.
  • Captain Oblivious: Lila
  • Commitment Issues: Lenny's real problem is that he likes chasing after women but doesn't particularly like catching them. His rather indifferent demeanor at the reception for his wedding to Kelly hints that he won't be any happier in this relationship than he was in his last one.
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  • Creator Cameo: Neil Simon is a guest at the wedding.
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • Lenny's breakup with Lila is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, particularly because Lenny Cannot Spit It Out and Lila keeps Comically Missing the Point.
    • Lenny's confession to Kelly's parents about his marital status is fraught with comedy and dramatic tension. He spends the entirety of the conversation practically filibustering as he goes through his audacious plans to divorce his wife and marry their daughter. Meanwhile, Kelly's father can be seen tightening up and seething as his mild distrust of Lenny quickly turns into boiling rage and Kelly's mother just stares with a shocked expression, her mouth agape.
  • The Determinator: Lenny, to the extent that Kelly's parents both comment on it.
  • Disposable Fiancé: In Lenny's case, Disposable Bride.
    • Not really fiancés, but Kelly's college boyfriends end up in this category.
  • Embarrassingly Painful Sunburn: What happens to Lila after spending an entire day on the beach, sans sunblock.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: It seems Lenny married Lila just to have sex with her. He regrets it immediately.
  • Hurricane of Excuses: How Lenny explains to Lila why he's gone so long. She's trusting enough to believe him.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: It says "Neil Simon's The Heartbreak Kid" in the opening credits. Simon usually got this billing during his screenwriting heyday. In fact, it's one of the very few films that Simon either didn't adapt from one of his own plays or write directly for the screen (it's based on a short story by Bruce Jay Friedman).
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Lila is a veritable symphony of minor flaws.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: When Lenny shows up in Minneapolis to woo Kelly, she invites him to her family's summer house "in the mountains." The only real mountains in Minnesota are near the Canadian border, a several-hour drive away.
  • Overprotective Dad / Papa Wolf: Kelly's father (Eddie Albert) takes an instant disliking to Lenny, which eventually blossoms into seething hatred. He tries numerous times to keep him away from his daughter, even resorting to bribery at one point.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lenny gets more than one from Mr. Corcoran. It doesn't stop him.
  • Recurring Riff: Various versions of "Close To You", which get more and more ironic as the film goes along.
  • Revealing Hug: Lenny's empty stare as Lila nestles up to him after sex is revealing of how much he didn't enjoy it. Then her other habits start to irritate him.
  • Shiksa Goddess: Jewish Lenny falls hard for blonde, blue-eyed Kelly ... while on his honeymoon.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" played at both weddings. Also, Art Metrano singing his infamous "da-da-DA-DA" song in the background during Lenny's awkward first meeting with Kelly's parents at the dinner theater.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • Has many common threads with Elaine May's previous film A New Leaf, which also centers around an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist who ends up in a relationship with an awkward, klutzy woman who he finds annoying.
    • Like The Graduate, it's a cynical comedy about a nebbishy guy's romantic misadventures directed by half of the Nichols & May comedy team. Charles Grodin in fact turned down the role of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. Also, both films have one of the Ropers in a supporting role (Audra Lindley played Kelly's mother, while Norman Fell was the landlord in The Graduate).
    • Lenny Cantrow is an important comedic ancestor of George Costanza.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Lenny at times, like when he travels hundreds of miles to find Kelly on her college campus. In the end he gets her to marry him out of sheer persistence.
  • Stalking Is Love: Kelly ends up marrying Lenny after his stalking campaign, though whether she really loves him is open to question.
  • Tranquil Fury: Kelly's dad is a Stoic Midwesterner who gets stretched to his Rage Breaking Point by Lenny. Eddie Albert's masterful slow burn in his scenes with Charles Grodin is a highlight of the film.
  • The Trope Kid: The Heartbreak Kid
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: With barely a shred of remorse, Lenny dumps his nebbish (yet loving) wife less than a week into their marriage.
  • Woman Child: Lila has a notable lack of maturity. She pouts when she doesn't get what she wants, lacks table manners and talks about having to "go pee-pee".
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The three leads are all very self-deluded: Lila thinks she's the blushing bride embarking on her Happily Ever After, Lenny sees himself as a smooth-talking plucky underdog who's gotten a second chance at happiness, and Kelly affects the persona of a cool, seductive Femme Fatale. They all play these roles to the hilt, even as it complicates matters to a huge degree.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Lenny goes chasing after a hot blonde on his honeymoon.

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