[Film Review] Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Postcards from the Edge poster.jpg

Title: Postcards from the Edge
Year: 1990
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenwriter: Carrie Fisher
based on her own book
Music: Carly Simon
Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus
Cast:
Meryl Streep
Shirley MacLaine
Dennis Quaid
Gene Hackman
Richard Dreyfuss
Annette Bening
Robin Bartlett
Rob Reiner
Mary Wickes
Conrad Bain
Simon Callow
Oliver Platt
Michael Ontkean
CCH Pounder
JD Souther
Anthony Heald
Rating: 7.1/10

Postcards from the Edge 1990.jpg

“Mommy issues alert!”, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by the late actress Carrie Fisher, who was also hired to pen the screenplay, Mike Nichols’ POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGES sieves through the benumbed life of a Hollywood working actress who is engulfed by a pall of acedia, which is fermented by drug abuse, industrial paternalism and a love-and-hate relationship with her mother (mirroring Fisher’s own actress mother, the late Debbie Reynolds).

As per usual, Meryl Streep takes the job in her stride, playing a problematic actress Suzanne Vale who is in the process of shooting of a police flick when she is ODed, after the incident, to her utter dismay she has to move in with her mother Doris Mann (MacLaine) as the proviso of keeping her insurance covered demands. Bestirring herself to strike out on her own, she has some baggage to get shot of before she can confidently belt out the Oscar-nominated country tune I’M CHECKIN’ OUT (written by Shel Silverstein) in the end.

Like the movie’s poster brazenly suggests, the chief selling point is the daughter-mother dynamism between the two Oscar winners, and Nichols has no trouble to bring out the best of both in their water versus fire duel, although one should not expect the same decibels and ferocity from Nichols’ debut WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966), after all, the Suzanne-Doris clash has never escalated into something squarely toxic or malevolent.

Save their time-honored literacy in dramatics, both Streep and MacLaine give phenomenal singing renditions, during their song battle “YOU DON’T KNOW ME” Vs. “I’M STILL HERE”, their unadorned voice and telltale mannerism tacitly let on the rub of their troubled water: a self-centered mother who demonstrates her love through micromanagement and a daughter tries futilely to break out of her mother’s shadow. It only takes another accident to iron things out, although it is all mushy stuff, the players never let us down, MacLaine goes fabulous and larger-than-life, while Streep trickles out her frustration, bewilderment and anger with unostentatious nicety, let’s not forget she is such a protean chanteuse as well!

Casually, the story throws gibes to the industry’s perennial miasma, body-shaming an actress behind her back, a sweet-talking Lothario producer Jack Faulkner (a dishabille Dennis Quaid) shamelessly exclaims that he prefers Suzanne when she is under the influence when they fall out, and financial hanky-panky often wrong-foots these less astute minds. A far cry from Nichols’ best work, but if you are intrigued by the bauble of Hollywoodland, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE can assure you a less bombastic coup d’oeil.

referential entries: Nichols’ WORKING GIRL (1988, 7.0/10), WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966, 8.2/10).

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