Elaine May Eric Braun - Essay

Eric Braun

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Elaine May has a considerable reputation for wit and perception and I viewed the beginning of The Heartbreak Kid—… with an expectant smile, which froze on my lips at the first wedding breakfast. I just cannot find anything inherently funny in Jewish weddings—still less in honeymoon nights in which the idiosyncrasies of either partner are held up to ridicule. By the time the stupid bride was writhing in the throes of sunstroke, which the groom was seizing as a Godsent opportunity to date another girl, my lips were tight indeed; not even Almira Sessions nor the late Edna May Oliver ever registered disapproval as wholeheartedly as I. The whole approach to the subject of the non-hero's emotional life—or lack of it, for there was never a more cold-blooded, self-indulgent creep than Lenny—seems to me too sadistic to be funny, and he himself too lacking in charm or any of the basic human qualities to be able to hold one's attention for longer than one unhappy honeymoon.

Neil Simon's comedy has always seemed to me in the past to mirror the American way of life with good humour and affection for his characters so that it was possible to laugh with their shortcomings rather than to be made uncomfortable by them, and Elaine May has made her witty shafts strike home without resorting to the pillory. Together, in this case, they have failed to create a single situation which does not smack of the cynical or a character with whom one can have sympathy. (p. 46)

Eric Braun, "Reviews: 'The Heartbreak Kid'" (© copyright Eric Braun 1973; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 19, No. 10, July, 1973, pp. 45-6.