The Heidi Chronicles

  • 1996
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

At first, this production of the play The Heidi Chronicles seems to furnish another example of a theatrical blockbuster's untranslatable magic. As the piece's shorter, more gimmicky scenes give way to longer, less superficial speeches, this serio-comic play's appeal takes hold and builds to a nostalgic trajectory of recklessly abandoned youthful optimism. In...read more

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At first, this production of the play The Heidi Chronicles seems to furnish another example of a theatrical blockbuster's untranslatable magic. As the piece's shorter, more gimmicky scenes give way to longer, less superficial speeches, this serio-comic play's appeal takes hold and builds

to a nostalgic trajectory of recklessly abandoned youthful optimism.

In the 1960s, high school activist Heidi (Jamie Lee Curtis) seeks her voice in a male-dominated world. She maintains special bonds with a gay schoolmate, Peter (Tom Hulce); her energetic but shallow pal, Susan (Kim Cattrall); and her first lover, firebrand reporter Scoop Rosenbaum (Peter

Frechette). Through the years, Heidi's goal of rewriting art history to embrace neglected female artists remains constant, but her feminism ebbs and flows through such events as the war in Vietnam, Nixon's resignation, and the assassination of John Lennon. Heidi's journey through cultural upheaval

isn't nearly as painful as absorbing the shock of Scoop's marriage to a woman willing to make this attractive chauvinist her number one priority. Feeling betrayed by her own inability to compromise and drifting through less significant love affairs, Heidi ends up wondering whatever happened to the

Women's Movement, particularly after her childhood girlfriend, Susan (now a successful TV executive), can barely make time for a visiting Heidi in between power lunches. Fulfilled by her career but increasingly self-absorbed, Heidi takes best pal Peter for granted until he shakes her out of her

routine assumptions by pointing out the reality of the AIDS plague in his life. Still in love with Scoop and conflicted about her crusading past, Heidi adopts a child and looks forward to an emancipated future in which her daughter will be able to balance her own life's work and personal

happiness.

Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize winner may strike some as the fortunate beneficiary of perfect timing. Striking all the right chords about Baby Boomer disillusionment, this trendy feminist play made a splash on Broadway. Addressing too many political flash points and balancing an exhaustive

number of perspectives, The Heidi Chronicles facilely saves itself the trouble of exploring any single issue in depth. While compelling, this screen version often shies away from the basic gravity of Wasserstein's fast-food cynicism and settles for a more conventional laughter-through-tears

melodrama. If one can forgive this shallow screen treatment's tendency to dwell on the play's sitcom essence in its establishing scenes, the movie gets better as it goes along.

As the college-girl humor recedes, Wasserstein's contemplation of waylaid dreams achieves a universal significance deeper than push-button social satire. In three climactic sequences, THE HEIDI CHRONICLES evokes tragic recognition from the audience: (1) Scoop's realization of what he lost by

undervaluing Heidi's self-determination; (2) Peter's bitter evaluation of a relationship that's become Heidi's friendship-of-convenience; and (3) Heidi's denunciation of her own destructive pigeonholing of other women during an innocuous guest lecture that turns into a biting confessional

soliloquy. In astonishingly powerful yet understated acting, Jamie Lee Curtis ties together Wasserstein's themes as Heidi's self-reproach sounds a temporary death knell for sisterhood. Before its ambiguously happy ending, this movie muses provocatively about the betrayal of idealism in a world

geared to expect second best. Ultimately, the movie audiences understand what theater audiences responded to so passionately. (Profanity, adult situations, sexual situations, substance abuse.)

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  • Released: 1996
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: At first, this production of the play The Heidi Chronicles seems to furnish another example of a theatrical blockbuster's untranslatable magic. As the piece's shorter, more gimmicky scenes give way to longer, less superficial speeches, this serio-comic pla… (more)

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