God bless Nora Ephron and the imaginative and successful life she made for herself, with many joys but also fighting the occasional demons. Some people thought it was jus too easy, because of who she was, her family connections, but she did have to prove herself, did have to struggle and wore her success well. Where do I begin to thank her? Easily at what's for me the top of her incredible output of films, Heartburn, which was based on her own incredible book, and her own rocky marriage to Carl Bernstein. Read it/see it. Not only did it tell a story involving my town and people I knew, making them recognizable in biting and clever ways, but it told a true story about love, betrayal and heartbreak that was 1000 percent relatable beyond the Beltway. Also, (trivia) there's a scene shot in The Palm and my husband, Howard, is in the background (as a face painted on the wall).
My ability to puddle up reached a new high at the moment Meryl Streep's jet lifts off from National and Carly Simon, backed by a children's choir, begins to sing "Itty Bitty Spider."A pitch perfect touch. I hummed it for days. Nothing more needed to be said. Sleepless in Seattle was another job well done. It was sappy but not too sappy and the performances lifted it up. I missed some of the others and then got hooked right back in by Julie and Julia. This was a writer and director who also knew and loved food and her intelligence shows so well in that film. And what a wonderful career-long collaboration she had with Meryl Streep.
Ephron came to Washington to contribute some items to the Julia Child exhibit at the Museum of American History, and she was approachable and friendly. Even handled some stupid questions better than is required. All these many years later, a reporter actually asked her, "What did you like to cook for Carl Bernstein?" Ephron's jaw dropped, she looked at the reporter and said, "You're asking me that? Now?" Touche!
I have always felt Two for the Road was the gold standard of romantic comedy films. It's a British director, Stanley Donen, working with young Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, all of them in peak form. I've seen it more than a dozen times and have shared it with so many loved ones and friends. To know me is to know Two for the Road. I feel similarly about Heartburn. They capture marriage with all its adult bumps and flaws and, yes, pleasures. In Two for the Road the couple work it out, in Heartburn, they don't, but both stories are so fully told, so human and alive, that you feel everything will be okay.
Meryl Streep/Nora Ephron's departure at the end of Heartburn is sad but exhiliaring and liberating. It lingers deep in the brain. It gives hope. In Two for the Road, love wins, but in an adult fashion, and they drive off if not exactly into the sunset at least into the life they've made for themselves. It's so adult.
This was always an impossible fantasy, but I often dreamed that if my book were to become a movie I would have loved Nora Ephron to be involved. When I wrote Innocent Spouse I thought of the book Heartburn every day. It was fiction (sort of) and mine was fact, but it was my inspiration.