Substance-addicted Hollywood actress Suzanne Vale is on the skids. After a spell at a detox centre her film company insists as a condition of continuing to employ her that she live with her... See full summary »
An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.
Substance-addicted Hollywood actress Suzanne Vale is on the skids. After a spell at a detox centre her film company insists as a condition of continuing to employ her that she live with her mother Doris Mann, herself once a star and now a champion drinker. Such a set-up is bad news for Suzanne who has struggled for years to get out of her mother's shadow, and who finds her mother still treats her like a child. Despite these problems - and further ones to do with the men in in her life - Suzanne can begin to see the funny side of her situation, and it also starts to occur to her that not only do daughters have mothers, mothers do too. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Nothing heavy here, but such virtuosic lightweight brilliance!
Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Mike Nichols is as close to a William Wyler as the New Hollywood (post-1967) gives us. His movies are both impeccable and emotionally taut. They feature the very best production values and impressive acting. And they take chances carefully, which isn't actually an oxymoron. Nichols knows he's pushing boundaries, but within the established forms. Even this movie, with its insider look at Hollywood, feels ingenious in a safe way, with echoes of "The Bad and the Beautiful" but with everyone toned down to a perfect realism.
One of the tricks of this movie, which is a little over the top in so many small ways (again, careful restraint all around), is keeping the acting believable. And foremost is Meryl Streep, lovable and sympathetic but not quite admirable or otherworldly the way older generation actresses so often get portrayed. Streep as a drug-troubled actress is a wonder, and right behind, with deliberate hamminess, is the woman playing her mother, Shirley MacLaine. Add Gene Hackman and Richard Dreyfuss in smaller roles, a cameo by Rob Reiner, and a pretty boy role for Dennis Quaid, and you can see there is something cooking here.
So why isn't this a great movie? It has the trimmings of greatness, even beyond the acting. Story by Carrie Fisher, music written by Carly Simon (and performed by the cast). Photography by German import Michael Ballhaus (who by the 1990s was also working for Coppola and Scorcese).
Well, some might say it really is great. Even though it is lightweight, even airy as a farce, and even though it leaves you only slightly glad, or happy, at the end rather than transformed, you could argue that Nichols intended something with this flavor, and achieved it. Could be. But for a simple example, take his second movie, "The Graduate," and notice the same tone, humor and irony laced with important topical and emotional strains. How different the effect there, and maybe for a couple of reasons. One, I think, is the subject matter here is the famously glib, plastic, unsympathetic world of overly rich, tabloid saturated Hollywood itself. Another is the inherent plot. What happens? A woman overcomes her addiction to star in another movie, and she seems to move a little forward in her relationship with her mother. Enough? Maybe not.
But knowing it's not trying to change the world, you might appreciate the illusory nature of the medium, exposed for us in a whole bunch of different ways (moving props, back projection, doubles used for blocking and framing, lights and camera in action, screening rooms and overdubbing, and so on. This is the stuff behind the drama enacted by Streep and MacLaine and the rest. It's worth watching in its own right.
And Nichols and Ballhaus have filmed this to glossy perfection, layering and moving and keeping the long takes going as long as possible (with an apology by Hackman, as a movie director, to Streep, the actress playing the actress, for using such long takes all the time). It's almost as if Nichols is making fun of himself, and the excesses that cause the cast and crew to go a little crazy.
Brilliant and entertaining? Completely. Probing or socially satirical in any way? No, not even into Hollywood, which is safely behind all these layers. Still, a film not to miss.
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