Elaine May William S. Pechter - Essay

William S. Pechter

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

For a considerable portion of its length, The Heartbreak Kid seems merely to be another mining of [the] lode of Jewish self-hatred. On brief acquaintance, Lenny Cantrow marries Lila Kolodny, and, almost as soon as she's been sexually demystified (she'd been making Lenny wait until the honeymoon), she is revealed to him as the proto-Jewish mother in all her gross vulgarity. Loud and inescapable, virtuoso of nonstop talking and eating undeterred even by sex …, her character, whatever one may think of the creation, is a creation. And anything the actress … fails to suggest of the character's insistently smothering presence, the film fills in by its sense of her encroachment on its space, from the narrow squeeze down the aisle at the opening wedding through her crowding in the car on the honeymoon trip to the hotel room where, laid up by a sunburn, she waits to pounce on Lenny each time he enters. Yet even as one admires the deftness with which all this is done, one is repelled by its cruelty;… [the] character seems drawn for no other purpose than to humiliate her, and, unappealing as the character may be, the film's treatment of her seems less appealing still….

[For] a while, it looks like the film, after spending its first half humiliating Lila, will spend its second humiliating Lenny, a CCNY shmuck vainly aspiring to conquer [Kelly,] an all-American campus queen.

Up until the point in the film at which Lila is dumped, The Heartbreak Kid seemed … neither particularly distinguished nor particularly likable; what one sees in it soon after,...

(The entire section is 664 words.)