Irreconcilable Differences

Irreconcilable Differences is a 1984 American comedy-drama film starring Ryan O'Neal, Shelley Long, and Drew Barrymore. The film was a minor box-office success, making over $12 million. For their performances, both Long and Barrymore were nominated for Golden Globe Awards.

Irreconcilable Differences
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCharles Shyer
Produced byRichard Hashimoto
Nancy Meyers
Arlene Sellers
Alex Winitsky
Written byNancy Meyers
Charles Shyer
Music byPaul de Senneville
Olivier Toussaint
CinematographyWilliam A. Fraker
Edited byJohn F. Burnett
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 28, 1984 (1984-09-28)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[1][2] or $10 million[3]
Box office$12 million (US)[4] or $5,700,000[3]


Casey Brodsky (Drew Barrymore) has decided to divorce her parents and have her nanny, Maria Hernandez (Hortensia Colorado), appointed as Casey's legal guardian. It results in media attention, and her parents, Albert (Ryan O'Neal) and Lucy (Shelley Long) Brodsky, are both brought out of their respective self-absorbed lives and made to testify in court about their personal lives.

At a truck stop in Indiana on the night of January 20th, 1973, film professor Albert Brodsky is hitchhiking across the country, where he gets picked up by Lucy van Patten, a woman who has ambitions of writing books, particularly for children, but her fiancé "Bink", a gruff Navy man, represses her, and she is depressed about being relegated to the life of a military wife. Through getting to know Albert, Lucy loosens her inhibitions, breaks off her engagement to Bink, and marries Albert shortly afterwards.

The couple moves to California, where Albert attaches himself to a famed Hollywood producer, who entrusts him to film a romantic script the producer has kept shelved for a long time. When Albert suffers from writer's block about the romance, Lucy aids him with her writing skills. The film becomes a box-office hit and garners him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, but cracks are forming in Albert and Lucy's marriage, particularly since Albert was slow to credit Lucy for the screenplay and he is frequently traveling to places such as Cannes, France, while leaving his daughter in the care of Lucy, or more often Maria, their maid. When Albert sees a young woman named Blake Chandler (Sharon Stone) working at a hot dog stand, he takes her home and casts her in his next film, which becomes a moderate success. When Lucy sees signs that Albert is interested in Blake for more than just acting, she divorces him, further troubling Casey. Albert ensures that Lucy gets custody of Casey, while he lives in a Hollywood mansion with Blake.

A turning point occurs when Lucy, angered both at Albert's procrastination in paying child support and at the sight of a sloppy, overweight woman in a supermarket buying the same comfort food as she is, hurries home and channels her anger into writing a tell-all novel. Meanwhile, Albert's producers are warning him not to attempt his musical remake of Gone with the Wind, which he is calling Atlanta, but Albert ignores their advice, and his budget for the picture skyrockets, mainly because of his own perfectionist attitude and Blake's mediocre singing voice, and her diva-like behavior on set. Atlanta becomes an embarrassing box-office bomb, costing Albert any assignments in Hollywood and causing Blake to desert him. Meanwhile, Lucy's novel becomes a runaway success, allowing her to buy and move into Albert's former mansion, and she begins to morph into a diva.

In a final confrontation, Albert and Lucy quarrel in front of Casey about her custody, which degenerates into a literal tug of war, with each parent pulling on one of Casey's arms, ignoring her pained protests. That is the final straw for Casey, who then decides to divorce both her parents.

Returning to the courtroom, where Casey gives testimony that just because two parents no longer love each other, that does not give them the right to ignore their children. Both Albert and Lucy break down in tears. Maria is given legal custody of Casey.

Months later Casey is still living with Maria and her family. Albert seems to be doing better now, getting modest but regular work directing TV commercials and sitcoms, and is being considered to direct a B movie, and Lucy has returned to her more down-to-earth personality. Both Lucy and Albert arrive at Maria's house for visitation with Casey at the same time by mistake, and the three of them decide to go out and eat together at a family restaurant, suggesting now a more peaceful, though decidedly bittersweet, relationship exists among them.



Irreconcilable Differences was inspired by the divorce between director Peter Bogdanovich and his first wife, producer Polly Platt, after he left her for actress Cybill Shepherd.

Charles Shyer and Nancy Myers had written and produced Private Benjamin. The success of that movie enabled Shyer to direct this.

"I love the movie," said Ryan O'Neal. "So I did it for no salary, just points. It was made for under $6 million, so they didn't have the money to pay us. Still, I think it's some of my best work. Maybe I should work like that more often."[1]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 57% based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10.[5] On Metacritic the film has a score of 52% based on reviews from 9 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times did not like the title and did not think the film was very promising at first, "The plot drifts dangerously toward a series of stagy confrontations, but avoids the obvious: This movie has been written with so much wit and imagination that even obligatory scenes have a certain freshness and style." Ebert calls it "one of the funnier and more intelligent movies of 1984" and gives it 3 and a half stars out of 4.[7]


Golden Globe Awards

See also


  1. Mann, Roderick (1 July 1984). "MOVIES: RYAN O'NEAL WANTS THE RECONCILABLE ROLE". Los Angeles Times. p. t21.
  2. Mann, Roderick (6 July 1980). "MOVIES: THE HIGH ADVENTURES OF 'GREEN ICE'". Los Angeles Times. p. o25.
  3. "The Unstoppables". Spy. November 1988. p. 92.
  4. "Irreconcilable Differences (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  5. "Irreconcilable Differences (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  6. "Irreconcilable Differences". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  7. Ebert, Roger (1984). "Irreconcilable Differences movie review (1984)". Chicago Sun-Times.
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