New York City food writer Rachel Samstat and Washington, D.C. political columnist Mark Forman meet at a mutual friend's wedding, and they marry, after a whirlwind courtship, despite Rachel's reservations. They purchase a dilapidated Georgetown townhouse in Washington, D.C. and the ongoing and seemingly never-ending renovations create some stress in their relationship. Rachel, overjoyed to discover she is pregnant, is determined to make her marriage work and becomes a stay-at-home mother. When she discovers evidence of Mark's extramarital affair with socialite Thelma Rice during her pregnancy with her second child, she leaves him and takes their daughter Annie to New York, where she moves in with her father and tries to jump start her career. Mark eventually convinces her to return home, but Rachel leaves him after his philandering continues.
The film was shot on location in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia. Jack Nicholson replaced Mandy Patinkin after a day of shooting. Nora Ephron's screenplay is based on her 1983 autobiographical novel of the same name, and inspired by her tempestuous second marriage to Carl Bernstein and his affair with Margaret Jay, the daughter of former British Prime Minister James Callaghan.
The film's music was composed by Carly Simon. Her songs, "Coming Around Again" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider", are included in the 1987 Grammy nominated album Coming Around Again.
The film received mixed reviews from critics and currently holds a 47% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a bitter, sour movie about two people who are only marginally interesting" and placed much of the blame on screenwriter Nora Ephron, who "should have based her story on somebody else's marriage. That way, she could have provided the distance and perspective that good comedy needs." He felt "she apparently had too much anger to transform the facts into entertaining fiction."
Variety thought it was "a beautifully crafted film with flawless performances and many splendid moments, yet the overall effect is a bit disappointing" and added, "While the day-to-day details are drawn with a striking clarity, Ephron's script never goes much beyond the mannerisms of middle-class life. Even with the sketchy background information, it's hard to tell what these people are feeling or what they want."
Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote: "The movie is full of talented people, who [...] are fun to watch, but after a while the scenes that don't point anywhere begin to add up, and you start asking yourself: 'What is this movie about?' You are still asking when it's over, and by then a flatness, a disappointment, is likely to have settled over the fillips you'd enjoyed," noting that "[t]hough Ephron is a gifted and a witty light essayist, her novel is no more than a variant of a princess fantasy: Rachel, the wife, is blameless; Mark, the husband, is simply a bad egg—an adulterer. And, reading the book, you don't have to take Rachel the bratty narrator very seriously; her self-pity is so thinly masked by humor and unabashed mean-spiritedness that you feel that the author is exploiting her life—trashing it by presenting it as a juicy, fast-action comic strip about a marriage of celebrities."
Leonard Maltin gave the film three stars out of a possible four, and wrote "Lightweight, superficial story is supercharged by two charismatic stars, who make it a must see."
The film opened in 843 theaters in the United States on July 25, 1986, and earned $5,783,079 during its opening weekend, ranking number two at the box office behind Aliens. It eventually grossed a total of $25,314,189 in the US.
Streep was named Best Actress at the Valladolid International Film Festival for her performance.