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30 years later, 'Irreconcilable Differences' still a primer on marriage and divorce for '80s generation

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Published Oct. 2, 2014

Let's face it: Irreconcilable Differences wasn't an iconic film of the '80s. It didn't necessarily break new ground cinematically. It didn't have a worthy soundtrack that we still listen to today. And it didn't have a legendary director at the helm. And yet, this romantic comedy snagged two Golden Globe nominations and introduced us to future stars Drew Barrymore and Sharon Stone. And it turns 30 years old this week.

Directed by Charles Shyer (who would wow us later with Baby Boom and Father of the Bride), Irreconcilable Differences is about a child (Barrymore) who wants to divorce her parents (Ryan O'Neal, Shelley Long) for - you got it - irreconcilable differences. The movie is mostly told in flashback, as we follow the romance between a film professor-turned-director (O'Neal) and stay-at-home-mom-turned children's book author (Long) as they meet and fall in love. Alas, they settle in Hollywood and are eventually corrupted by their own success, much to the detriment of their poor little daughter.

If you're unimpressed with the plot, you wouldn't be alone, but its appeal is found around the edges. Irreconcilable Differences scores a lukewarm 62 percent "fresh rating" on Rotten Tomatoes. The late Roger Ebert was impressed, though, writing in his review: "Right away, I was bracing myself for one of those smarmy movies about cute kids and mean parents. ... It turns out that I was too cynical. Irreconcilable Differences is sometimes cute, and is about mean parents, but it also is one of the funnier and more intelligent movies of 1984, and if viewers can work their way past the ungainly title, they're likely to have a surprisingly good time."

Long would score a Golden Globe nod for best actress in a comedy (losing to Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone), while Barrymore landed a Globe nod for best supporting acctress (losing to Peggy Ashcroft for A Passage to India).

Ironically, six years later, Barrymore would actually did legally emancipate herself from her parents, an act she'd later tell 60 Minutes she learned was possible by starring in this movie.



5. "I'm not into parenting right now."

4. "That bimbo stole my husband! They drank their lover's wine in glasses I stood in line to buy!"

3. "Yesterday I found a cobweb on my diaphragm."

2. "This Civil War ain't gonna get me down. I'm taking my act to a brand new town. This belle rings in old Atlanta. I'm gonna find myself a brand new Santa!"

1. "I'm just a kid, and I don't know what I'm doing sometimes. But I think you should know better when you're all grown up. I think you should know how to act, and how to treat people. And I think if you once loved someone enough to marry them, you should at least be nice to them, even if you don't love 'em any more."