December 18, 1989 12:00 PM

Meryl Streep, Roseanne Barr

Everybody makes a mistake once in a while, Meryl. This one ought to hold you for 13 or 14 years.

Like a great soloist performing an amateur work with a mediocre orchestra, Streep plays a famous, fatuous romance novelist. She fiddles like crazy—flouncing, mugging, swearing, going breathy and pulling out all the stops short of a medley of her famous accents. Hers is, at least, a performance with curiosity value.

In her movie debut, however, Barr hits the ground Hopping. As the frumpy housewife whose sleazeball husband Streep seduces, she reads all her lines with the same flat inflections. The biggest impact she makes is when she glares out at the camera in mean-spirited, ugly fashion as she plans revenge.

The writing by Mark R. Burns and Barry Strugatz, collaborators on Married to the Mob, is tiresome. There are comedy bits based on incontinence, human vomiting, dog vomiting, dog defecation and obscene gestures. The dialogue runs to “I know you are but what am I” humor.

Ed Begley Jr., as Barr’s husband and the supposedly irresistible lover of Streep, is as charismatic as a lettuce leaf. Even the supporting cast members (except Linda Hunt as a zestful nurse) give monotone line readings.

Director Susan Seidelman, in a rut as deep as the Pacific trench since Desperately Seeking Susan, gives the film a dreary pace. It’s as if she’s thrown the film to Streep, Barr and Begley, telling them to sink or swim. Glub, glub, glub. (PG-13)

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