PLAYWRIGHT Wendy Wasserstein has already won the Pulitzer Prize
and a Tony Award. Let's round it out and give her an Emmy for "The
Heidi Chronicles," which comes to TV at 7 p.m. Sunday on TNT cable.
No waiting till next September - let's also give an Emmy, right
now, to Jamie Lee Curtis, who's nothing short of perfect as heroine
Tom Hulce, Peter Friedman, Kim Cattrall and the rest of the
stellar supporting cast - Emmys all around.
Wasserstein has adapted her widely loved and much-performed
play as only a mother could, with tenderness and a firm hand.
"The Heidi Chronicles" is the bittersweet story of three
decades in the life of a modern woman. We're introduced to Heidi in
1965, as an awkward private-school girl who doesn't see the point
of a dance until she meets Peter (Hulce), who quickly (and
accurately) proclaims them friends for life.
Years tick by and, as Heidi narrates, we find her at Vassar,
still with best friend Susan (Cattrall), who reinvents herself
regularly to fit the times.
Heidi, though, is always Heidi, an endearing mixture of
gawkiness and self-assurance that Curtis captures deftly.
Every era through which Heidi passes looks and sounds just
right, whether she's campaigning for Eugene McCarthy in
Manchester, N.H., in 1968; losing her virginity to smug Scoop
Rosenbaum (Friedman, re-creating his Broadway role); or joining
Susan's prototypical feminist group (featuring a hilarious cameo by
Julie White of "Grace Under Fire").
She has triumphs, as she becomes a noted art historian and
publishes a respected book, and sadness, as Scoop - the man she
thought she could fall back on - marries someone else. Life with
Heidi, he explains, would have been too hard, because she wanted
"On a scale from one to 10, if you aim for six and get six,
everything will work out nicely," he warns her. "But if you aim for
10 in all things and get six, you're going to be very disappointed."
Heidi will be disappointed, he predicts, along with other women
of her generation. "The ones who open doors always are."
If the first half of "The Heidi Chronicles" is the sweet part
of bittersweet, the second half is the bitter, but almost always
Heidi finds the choices she has made challenged, her
achievements belittled. In my favorite ironic moment, she goes on
an interview show with Scoop and Peter to talk about women's
progress and finds that she hasn't progressed enough to get a
sentence past them.
Every woman around her seems to be pregnant. Susan, who has
gone to Hollywood, wants to make her life a TV sitcom. Peter, who
has become a pediatrician and come out as a gay man, feels she's
lost touch with his reality. She has a midlife crisis in front of a
The conclusion Heidi reaches was criticized by some women
during the play's 18-month run on Broadway. Here, Wasserstein has
retained that original ending but added an epilogue, set in 1995,
that brings the story more full circle.
She has also trimmed the play to the 90 minutes (plus
commercials) allowed by a TV movie format, and opened it up some.
But it all remains true to her 1988 vision. Paul Bogart ("Broadway
Bound") directs unobtrusively.
Any play is bound to be more magical performed live.
But if you haven't had a chance to see "The Heidi Chronicles"
on stage, this is the next best thing. And if you have, it's a
chance for a reunion with an old friend.
Judith Krantz's best-sellers, from "Scruples" to "Lovers," are
loaded with sex and shopping opportunities, beautiful people and
romantic places - in short, they're high on dazzle. …