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Mommie Blearest
slokes30 May 2007
Luke Skywalker is not the only member of the Star Wars gang with parent issues. Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, channeled hers into a novel that became another winning Mike Nichols domestic comedy, "Postcards From The Edge."

Meryl Streep stars as Carrie alter-ego Suzanne Vale, a once-successful actress trying to restart her career after a near-fatal O.D. Her mother, a screen legend in her day named Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine), happily takes on the responsibility of overseeing Suzanne's recovery, especially given the attendant oversight she gets on daughter's life and career.

"I really hate that you have to go through this," Doris sighs upon visiting her daughter in the rehab clinic. "I wish I could go through this for you." MacLaine gives, frame for frame, the best performance in the film, one of her best ever. She and Streep seem to feed off the best aspects of each other's prior screen work, Streep picking up on MacLaine's sass and comedic chops, MacLaine on the way Streep can give you a sea of sadness through just a flickering gleam in her eyes.

Streep's comedy turn is the big surprise here, especially given how successfully she pulls it off. No dingoes running off with babies in this production. Nichols helps by putting her in situations that are very un-Streepish, like being threatened by cheesy "Scarface" extras or inhaling Fritos. Whatever the props, Meryl herself makes me laugh, something I never expected. Not that she lays back. Her gift for inhabiting others' skin is on fine display, as she gives Suzanne Carrie Fisher's wry intonations and wan half-laugh.

You can hear the connection on the DVD commentary; a candid, amusing piece by Fisher in which she explains the background of "Postcards," why she considers it "emotionally autobiographical" in the way it deals with her own past drug issues and especially her relationship with her movie-star mother, Debbie Reynolds. At the same time, it's fictional in many key details.

Fisher's clever Hollywood-dream-factory send-up of a script gives MacLaine and Streep plenty of great lines that pop off the screen like cherry bombs. "Instant gratification takes too long," Suzanne whines. "I know you don't take my dreams seriously, even when I predicted your kidney stones," crows Mom.

The film does get rather pat in the second half, especially when both bond by rounding on Suzanne's ancient grandmother (Mary Wickes). Given that Suzanne's the central character, and the one with the drug problem, more effort should have been made on exposing her flaws and weaknesses, rather than making her seem the most normal character in the story. Fisher makes this point herself in her commentary, wishing she was "tougher" on Suzanne.

"Postcards" is most effective when it focuses on the paradox of how these people perform so well in the limelight and so clumsily outside of it. "We're designed more for public than for private," is how Suzanne puts it at one point. Some comments here complain of too many musical numbers, but of course entertaining is what these women live for. Watching Suzanne watch her mother sing "I'm Still Here", realizing for an instant that a throwaway line in the song is really a cry of pain over Suzanne's way of life, and finally responding, silently but in a nakedly emotional way, communicates all you need to know about how much these two people love each other, beneath their banter and blame.

Such subtle touches allow Streep, MacLaine, and Nichols to keep the longer dialogues crisp and funny. You may have a hard time understanding the lives these people lead, but you will enjoy their company.
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Triumph For Fisher
Cheetah-615 February 2002
Great performances by Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. They are both hilarious and poignant in this Carrie Fisher story about a show business daughter coming through the process of working out emotional trauma and baggage in relation to her mother, upbringing and subsequent addiction problems. Also especially good is Gene Hackman in a small supporting role and a cameo by Rob Reiner. Streep and MacLaine carry this film with their talents and are very entertaining as they confront each other and themselves about personal flaws and foibles. What makes this work so well is the smart and oblique humor that is employed to address the internal pain of the main character. I also liked the little jabs at the movie industry itself as well as its nonchalant way of revealing some of it's visual tricks too.

One particular touching and bittersweet scene is between Hackman (as movie director) as he comforts Streep (an actress he's working with) with a sort of lighthearted understanding and encouragement to overcome her drug addiction as he builds her up with appreciation of her talent.

Considering the obvious autobiographical nature of this story for Fisher, it would appear to be sort of a catharsis for her. She does a good job in bringing painful personal issues to light with humor through her writing. Personal pain and demons often seem to be the source of great art and entertainment as well as amusement for many artists and through their art, for the rest of us as well. This is a case in point and definitely worth the time.
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This movie TWIRLED UP!
Heidi-1513 March 1999
This is a very addictive movie. It got me hooked on its genuine and rich characters, sassy and intelligent dialogue that made fun of a serious subject. The performances were spectacular, not only by Streep and Maclaine, but also by the veteran Mary Wickes, Dennis Quaid and Robin Bartlett as Aretha ("my parents expected me to be black"). All of the cameos were enjoyable and added SO much to this fabulous film. It's refreshing to see Streep do something where you don't need to buy out a store's tissue supply to get through the movie. And Maclaine shines as this disturbed yet determined matriarch. I like almost everything about this film. Especially the singing at the end, and Maclaine's rendition of "I'm Still Here"

Great Movie!
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Autumn Sonata Hollywood Style
claudiaeilcinema30 December 2007
Debiee Reynolds/Carrie Fisher or MacLaine/Streep? It doesn't really matter. A comedy that swims around a theme without ever getting anywhere. To see Streep and MacLaine together is enough to make this a collector's item. The cheerful side of the Ingrid Bergman/Liv Ullman grim Ingman Bergman "Autumn Sonata" I know that Carrie Fisher with her American wit was telling us something, something personal but did it have to be so shallow? There is nothing about this characters with a hint of depth. Drugs and alcohol part of a culture in permanent denial. Maybe that's what it is. We're witnessing the replicas of what used to be human beings. The hurt is so flimsy. He may have told a million women that they smelled like Catalina, so what? Didn't she notice the phoniness in Dennis Quaid's smirk? I had to rush and see "Plenty" and stare into Meryl Streep's face to be reminded of her greatness. Not that she's bad here, not at all, she's wonderful, it's the character that made me recoil in horror. Okay, enough of that. the combination of MacLaine and Streep is terrific and the film will keep you entertained even if, like in my case, will leave you with a toxic aftertaste.
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One of the best American screenplay of the last 50 years.
stefans698 April 2005
This is easily one of the best American films of the 90s and certainly one of the best screenplays of the last 50 years.

Carrie Fisher writes dialogue like nobody else in show business and she outdoes herself with this semi-biopic about her life growing up in the biz with her actress Mom, Debbie Reynolds.

The film is loosely based on the novel of the same title by Fisher, and I say "loosely", because Nichols asked Fisher to re-write several parts to make them more "film-friendly". The book is more about drug addiction and the character of the mother (played brilliantly by Shirley MacLaine) is barely involved.

The film focuses (smartly) on the relationship between mother and daughter and Maclaine and Streep have a field day and create some of the most memorable mother-daughter scenes in American cinema history, thanks to the able direction of Mike Nichols. Dennis Quaid is also wonderful as the narcissistic drug addicted man that plays with Streep's character's emotions.

This is one of my all time favorite films, it's the only film on my top 10 list made in the last 25 years, and will be remembered for generations to come as the gem that it is. The screenplay is so amazing that about 80% of the dialogue is totally quotable and can be repeated ad nauseum to the delight of its fans (and annoyance of their relatives and significant others).

Wonderful cameos from everyone from Mary Wickes, Rob Reiner, Gene Hackman, Annette Benning, Oliver Platt and more...if you can get your hands on the DVD with Carrie Fisher commentary, it's just as hilarious as the film itself. The woman is a genius and it's a crime she wasn't nominated (or won) an Oscar for Best Screenplay for this film.
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Mike who?
costa2054 September 2004
Postcards From The Edge is one of my all-time favorites. It's a truly addictive movie that's always funny and touching no matter how many times I see it. Some of the criticism I've read have always seemed just a tad off base, particularly the ones that say that Streep never seems to get a handle on her character--she just acts kind of comically frazzled. Well I think that's the point, isn't it? Streep as Fisher doesn't know what she wants or who she is, and while trying to discover these things, she must battle her drug dependence, rebuild her career against all odds and hope, in addition to trying to reconcile her relationship with her outlandishly domineering mother, who just happens to be a legendary star with issues of her own. In this scenario, "frazzled" would seem to be the way to go.

In any case, those who have commented positively on the movie have mostly mentioned the great performances (as well as Carrie Fisher's wonderful screenplay), and rightly so since this is one the most smartly acted (and well-written) movies you will ever see. But it seems strange that the outstanding direction of Mike Nichols is rarely mentioned. I remember one Oscar ceremony when a producer whose movie had just won Best Picture, and, indeed, swept all the major awards--except Best Director--said "apparently the Academy thinks that the actors directed themselves." It would seem that many of the viewers of Postcards From The Edge think the same thing. In my opinion, Nichols doesn't get enough credit for the seamless way this movie moves or for the crispness of the comic timing. At every turn, he brings out the best in his actors, most especially in the dynamic scenes involving Streep and McLaine. I also love the way he shows, through shifting background effects, how movie illusions are created, which he further uses to illustrate how we often hide our true motivations. (The great example of this is in the scene on the lot with Streep and Dennis Quaid where he was trying to convince her he has always been sincere in his feelings for her--and maybe they should even marry. Then suddenly the background, a house and white picket fence cardboard front, is moved away by a production crew.)

This is a wonderfully entertaining movie, brilliantly acted and written and, yes, superbly directed.
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Meryl Streep is a comic genius!
Julia_Davis11 November 2003
Meryl Streep, cast against type in a comedic role plays Suzanne Vale, an actress struggling with drug addiction and a difficult relationship with her alcholic has-been singer/actress mother played by Shirley McClaine. The film starts with Vale, making a film, high as a kite and making a mess of her scenes, then she overdoses and is put into rehab.

Following her rehab stint, she is forced to live with her mother in order to be able to keep her job on a new film. Her mother tells her that she is making all the wrong career moves, stays up all night waiting for to come home from a date and generally otherwise makes her life very difficult. I won't give away anymore of the plot than that. Streep and McClaine are amazing here, and suprisingly, Streep can sing, very well.
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Terrific all around
NetPlay5257 March 2003
A really wonderful, funny and sad film with bravura performances by Streep, MacLaine, Quaid and a hilarioius cameo by Annette Benning ("they give you and endolphin rush!"). One of Streep's best performances and won of the many Oscars she should have won but was passed over for. This film holds up each time I see it.
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Nothing heavy here, but such virtuosic lightweight brilliance!
secondtake28 August 2010
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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Wonderfully Nutty
spinbunny8 March 2003
Meryl Streep is just about the best actress around and this, I think, is one of my favourite performances by her. (so far). Why? Because she is not playing her usual self -- she is a total nut case in this film --- neurotic and downright hilarious. Much like 2002's "Adaption" she is playing against her normal dramatic type and is a wonderful comedienne -- a role she should play more often --- actresses usually playing actresses usually are not memorable --- this is a "keeper" role --- and what a voice. (had she not been an actress, she could give most singers these days a run for their money!) Do rent it and laugh --- it is worth the trip to the video store!
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Glossy And Shallow Characters
Lechuguilla15 April 2010
The first five minutes are fine. And the film's eight-minute musical finale exudes terrific country/western spirit. But, in between, the characters reek of a glossy shallowness characteristic of a script that is not well fleshed out.

Flighty, ungrateful Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) is a young actress hooked on drugs, and lorded over by her annoyingly controlling, alcoholic, show-biz mother named Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine). Their bumpy relationship provides the main thrust to the plot, as pill-popping Suzanne tries to continue her acting, while judgmental Doris imposes herself on Suzanne, as a kind of career counselor. Around these two swirl an assortment of photogenic Hollywood types, who initiate or aggravate various conflicts between Suzanne and Doris.

One would think this setup would imply a drama. Not here. The film tries to be a comedy. Some of the dialogue is indeed funny. But the comedy element contradicts the painful plight of the script's two main characters. In addition to their substance abuse problems, both Suzanne and Doris are so wrapped up in themselves, so self-centered, they're hard to root for.

The film's acting generally is overdone, at times hammy, the most egregious example being Dennis Quaid. Production design is credible. Color cinematography is conventional, but competent.

The story premise had merit. But Director Mike Nichols and writer Carrie Fisher needed to give a little more thought to the characters in this story, all of whom come across as glib, shallow, cosmetic, superficial, devoid of depth. Comedy can indeed be integrated with serious topics. But in the case of "Postcards From The Edge", it needed to be integrated with a little more finesse.
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The Pressures of Hollywood Names and Talent
theowinthrop13 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE is based on the novel by Carrie Fisher which has certain traces from her own family background with her mother (Debbie Reynolds) and her father (Eddie Fisher). Ms Fisher has had a good career in movies, best for the original Star Wars Trilogy (as Princess Leia), but in other films, such as Meg Ryan's friend in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. However, she has had many problems, including (presumably) the issue of a mother who knows the business and cannot avoid meddling into her life, and a drug problem. These have been somewhat settled in recent years, and her career is back on track. But the film shows the point when the problems became life threatening: when she almost overdosed and had a downturn in her film career.

Mike Nichols' directing is pretty good here, and enhances the performances of Meryl Streep (in the Fisher role), Shirley MacLaine (as the Debby Reynolds clone), Dennis Quaid (as the false lover), and (in cameos) Gene Hackman as Streep's director, Richard Dreyfus as the physician who pumps her stomach and subsequently tries to date her, and Annette Benning as an unexpected rival for Quaid. Mary Wickes appears as Streep's grandmother (as critical of MacLaine as the latter is of Streep), and does a good job as a lively old scold. Her husband, Conrad Bain (he was Bea Arthur's neighbor,Arthur, on MAUDE) is equally good as an elderly grandfather who may or may not be senile.

The film even gives both it's female stars a chance to demonstrate their musical talents: MacLaine in singing "I'M STILL HERE" at a party she is throwing for Streep, and Streep singing a country tune (as part of a film she is filming) at the conclusion of the movie.
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Bitingly accurate
gcd7016 April 2007
"Postcards From the Edge" is a very funny movie, based on the biting novel by Carrie Fisher, about the pressures of being the child of a show business star.

Director Mike Nichols is in top form as is Meryl Streep and an amazing supporting cast that includes Shirley McClaine, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss and Dennis Quaid.

The movie is really quite short, and, to be honest, not a lot actually happens. In spite of this, it is thoroughly entertaining and a mighty good laugh. Owes a lot to the insightful, honest writing from Fisher's novel of the same name which was followed by two thematic sequels.

Friday, March 1, 1991 - Forest Hill Chase
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Another great film by Meryl Streep
Idocamstuf4 August 2002
I finally saw this film last night, and I really enjoyed it. It was funny, and I could relate to the characters. Lots of great cameos too from Richard Dreyfuss, Annette Benning, Oliver Platt, and Rob Reiner. The director Mike Nichols(Silkwood, Working Girl) is also great. I would recommend this film to anyone who likes Meryl Streep, or movies with a lot of well-known actors in it.
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Streep and MacLaine shine in witty script
DeeNine-227 October 1999
Meryl Streep stars as Carrie Fisher, which is a bit of a stretch-for Carrie Fisher, that is. Carrie Fisher never did anything for me, although I did see Star Wars. The younger generation, I understand, found her quite fetching. The TV show Friends had Rachel dressing up like her as Princess Laya to excite Zimmer... So I suppose if I had concentrated on her, I would have gotten a bit of a yen because she does have agreeable features. But her main quality, it now appears, is her ability to write dialogue (she wrote the screen play as well as the book). The dialogue made the book and is the heart and soul of the movie.

I guess a few words about Meryl Streep are in order since she is one of the great actresses of our age. I always thought of her as flawless, but she's more than that. She just demands the camera, and she has the talent. In the finale she sings a country and western song (music by Carly Simon, by the way) and she can warble. But she is almost absurd in the police uni she runs around in (playing a part in a movie within a movie). She doesn't quite achieve a comedic effect and just avoids the ridiculous; however when the camera gets on her face, we believe her, as we always believe Meryl Streep.

Streep has always made it on talent. She had to. Her eyes are not really good. And her nose is too thin. She has no figure. But her mouth is nice, and when she flashes her smile, it lights up the place. And she never lets go of the illusion. Particularly telling was the opening scene, nicely directed by Mike Nichols. I saw the PV cliffs and the shots of the ocean below and waited for the SoCal scene to unfold, only it was Mexico, and I thought Gee, this looks like a cheap MOW set, and I continued to be fooled as Meryl is hauled from customs by the customs officer and slapped. It is only when they go to "cut!" and the movie within the movie is exposed that I realized why the set looked cheap. (Because it was supposed to!) Meryl sold the scene within the scene, and irony, she was supposed to be doing a terrible job because of her drug dependency. Somehow a scene with Meryl Streep in it never drags. Maybe she guides the direction and the editing. Thinking back (this is the first movie I've seen her in in years) to Sophie's Choice, for example, (1982 best actress Oscar and other honors) she hasn't changed much except that she's a little more relaxed, and while her concentration is still total, there is a touch less urgency in her performance. I've heard people complain about her mannerisms, that head to the side so that the corner of the mouth goes up, a little defensive smile, and then the flash of eyes, comes to mind, and some others, but compared with say, Dustin Hoffman or (horrors) John Wayne, she's as pure as Olivier.

Shirley MacLaine is, if anything, even better here as Carrie Fisher's mother, one part alcoholic, one part stage mom, and one part frustrated actress jealous of her daughter's youth and talent, all parts overbearing. I recall Shirley MacLaine as a young woman of course. I can see her in Can- Can (1960) showing off those gorgeous legs (she shows her legs here too, but I cringed). She was pretty, healthy and busting her bodice as a young actress, and I liked her, but she was never more than a popular actress. Then came many years later, Terms of Endearment (1983).

Shirley MacLaine is the classic example of the actress who really learned how to act as she got older, not like Betty Davis, who was an accomplished actress from the get go and got better as she aged. Shirley MacLaine (Warren Beatty's sister, one recalls) was just another pretty face with some talent. She got an academy award nomination for The Apartment (1960), but it was undeserved. I liked the hospital scene here at the end, mother and daughter renewing their bonds, Shirley without her wig, and no make-up. Ah, now that's a serious actress who will just let herself look terrible for the camera!

Some great lines: "endolphin rush." (Streep corrects with, "You mean endorphin rush.") "You smell like Catalina." (Makes me think of the song lyric "I smell sex and candy.") I get to be "hyper-conscious to the series of humiliations." (Carrie's life now without the deadening effect of drugs.) Streep's timing on the "..And you weren't wearing any panties" line was great (talking about the embarrassment of her mother showing her legs drunk at a party in the past).

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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Bravo MacLaine and Streep
arsportsltd15 December 2011
Shirley MacLaine is only 12 years older than Meryl Streep but played Streep's Movie Star mother -to a fare thee well. Closely resembling the real life story of Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher this film has lot of inside baseball about Reynolds and Fisher. Ms. Streep is as always brilliant as the tormented "Carrie" and Ms. MacLaine is superb as "Debbie". Liked Gary Morton as the agent. Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, Richard Dreyfuss, and Annette Bening give fine support to the Stars. Mary Wickes is priceless as Shirley's Mother much resembling the real Mom of Debbie Reynolds if you read Debbie's book.

Mike Nichols deserves credit for brining this story to the screen and even has a great windup with Streep singing over the credits. Is there anything Ms.Streep cannot do?

Shirley MacLaine belts out Sondheim's great song of survival "I'm Still Here" and no doubt Shirley MacLaine is still here with over 50 years a Great star working with great Directors such as Wilder, Hitchcock, Wyler, and co star with Eastwood, Lemmon, Sinatra, Bancroft, Newman, Hepburn, Garner, etc, etc. etc.
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Dependable effort from Mike Nichols
Director Mike Nichols consistently makes films that stand the test of time. It's more a fact than an arguable point with a resume that includes "The Graduate", "Silkwood", and "Primary Colors". Many of his films could conceivably become quite dated, but they always have such wonderful performances that it becomes easy to overlook bad choices. His 1990 feature comedy-drama "Postcards from the Edge" has been a little bruised by time, but it's still a formidable effort in many ways. Based on Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical memoir of the same name, it follows an actress (Meryl Streep) as she copes with drug addiction, her troubled career, an unstable relationship with her mother (Shirley MacLaine), and the requisite love interest (Dennis Quaid). The interplay between Streep and MacLaine feels like an advanced seminar in performance. Overall, it's an intelligently conceived and leisurely told story about the roller-coaster ride of life, career, and family. Although it has the tendency to meander, it's full of star cameos, one-liners, and a young Annette Bening even drops in for a scene with Ms. Streep. Good stuff.
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some great scenes
SnoopyStyle10 April 2016
Drug-addicted Hollywood star Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) is working for director Lowell Korshack (Gene Hackman). She showed promise early but her career has spiraled down. Former classmate Jack Faulkner (Dennis Quaid) brings her to the ER after she OD'ed. Dr. Frankenthal (Richard Dreyfuss) pumps her stomach. Aretha (Robin Bartlett) is her roommate in rehab. Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine) is her stage mom and a hard-drinking Hollywood legend. The insurance company for her movie demands that she stays with her mother.

This is written by Carrie Fisher as a thinly veiled biography of her life with her mother Debbie Reynolds. There are great memorable moments like Suzanne overhearing the crew ridiculing her. The plot meanders too much and lacks a direction. There are terrific bits of scenes but the whole doesn't build to something better.
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Lots of style and canny one-liners, but too often the director is just winging it...
moonspinner556 November 2005
Screenwriter Carrie Fisher adapted her own book--about an actress in drug rehab--into this film about a drug-addicted actress and her alcoholic movie star mama, and the two barely resemble each other. No matter, because director Mike Nichols stages the behind-the-scenes/show-biz material very well (he's visually clever, with a humorous wink to the audience). However, it's momentarily disappointing that the film is so lightweight and doesn't strive to be more substantial, or that Meryl Streep hasn't really zeroed in on her character (she spends much of her time being comically frazzled). Streep's scenes with mother Shirley MacLaine are colorful and well-written, but her interludes with smug lover Dennis Quaid are embarrassing, with both stars spitting out silly lines of dialogue--and Nichols and his editor just letting them ramble. A plot-thread about Streep's shady business manager is brought up only to be forgotten about (we meet the man in question early in the film and he appears to be a forthright person of integrity), while the finale is a musical dead-end (is it supposed to be part of a movie or a music video?). Streep does an amiable Wynnona Judd impersonation here--and even resembles her!--but the picture is thin (it is exceptional, perhaps, only in its thinness). Gene Hackman as a director has a forceful moment at the beginning before he's turned into an understanding daddy, while Richard Dreyfuss plays a doctor who pumps Streep's stomach and sends her flowers the next day. Fisher and Nichols stay soft; they never get offensive or edgy--and maybe that's part of the problem. **1/2 from ****
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Streep's Comeback Film!
mrcaw127 April 2004
Postcards from the Edge (1990) Based on Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical novel, Streep plays a down and out actress on the comeback trail. Shirley MacLaine as her mom, is in the Debbie Reynolds-like Hollywood legend role. In a sense, the film was a bit of a mini-comeback for Streep who had not enjoyed the string of hits she was used to in the late '70s and early '80s. And although not great, it is enjoyable with MacLaine almost stealing the show out from under Streep's all too capable hands. Meryl does a bit of singing in the film, and while she gives a good performance, it wasn't the wisest of choices to sing for the first time in film when the legendary Shirley MacLaine also performs a wonderful singing number in the same picture. Comparisons are inevitable.
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Never seems to know where it is going or what it is supposed to be saying
JamesHitchcock29 May 2009
"Postcards from the Edge" represents one of Hollywood's occasional attempts to turn its cameras on itself by making a film about films and film-making. The central character is Suzanne Vale, a drug-addicted actress who is the daughter of Doris Mann, a leading cinema actress of the 1950s and 1960s. It is based on a novel by Carrie Fisher, an actress who at one time suffered from drug addiction and is the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, a leading cinema actress of the 1950s and 1960s. Despite these similarities, Fisher has denied that her novel was autobiographical. (Some, including Minnelli herself, have also seen parallels with Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland).

The main theme of the film is the relationship between mother and daughter. Suzanne's drug habits have been affecting her career and even after treatment in a rehab centre she is warned that the studio's insurance policy will cover her only if she lives with a "responsible" individual, such as her mother. Suzanne, however, finds it difficult to live with Doris, who is about as irresponsible an individual as they come, and has her own substance dependence problems, in her case with alcohol. Doris is loud, selfish and manipulative, never missing a chance to interfere in Suzanne's life. There is also a sub-plot about Suzanne's relationship with movie producer Jack Faulkner, who professes passionate love for her on their first date, which she believes until she discovers that he is also sleeping with one of her co-stars in her latest picture.

I watched this film largely because it stars Meryl Streep, one of my favourite actresses, and she is the best thing about it, even if I would not rate her performance quite as highly as the one she gave in "Silkwood", her earlier collaboration with Mike Nichols. (I have never seen "Heartburn", another film on which they worked together). Meryl even manages to do something which I would have thought beyond the capabilities of a first-rate actress- to give a convincing impersonation of a second-rate one. It is clear from the scenes where she is shooting her movie that Suzanne Vale is not meant to be an actress in the Meryl Streep class. Streep even gets to sing, and shows us that at one time she had a far better voice than the one she displayed in last year's awful "Mamma Mia!". I wondered what has happened to it over the last couple of decades.

I also liked Shirley MacLaine as Doris, which is strange as I disliked her in "Terms of Endearment", another film in which she played a domineering mother who interferes in her daughter's life. I think that the difference is that her performance as Aurora in "Terms of Endearment" was such an over-the-top caricature that it seemed quite out of place in that lugubrious tearjerker. Her performance in "Postcards from the Edge" is no less a caricature, but then the film is less serious and lighter in spirit than "Terms of Endearment", and Doris is written as the sort of larger-than-life character who is such a drama queen, offstage as well as on, that her whole life almost becomes a deliberate self-caricature. It is the two women who are at the centre of the film, but there are also cameos from three major male stars, Dennis Quaid as Jack, Gene Hackman as a film director and Richard Dreyfuss as Suzanne's doctor, who also seems to be romantically interested in her.

What I didn't like about the film was that it was, at times, too static and that it never finished what it seemed to be starting. It starts off as what seems to be a serious film about drug addiction, but this theme is never really developed. It then turns into a satire on the ways of Hollywood, but this theme is not developed either, and the film then becomes a study of a mother-daughter relationship, without approaching that subject too seriously. It has been described as a comedy, although I am not sure that is the right description if by "comedy" is meant a film primarily intended to make people laugh. (I doubt if many of the lines in "Postcards from the Edge" would have had audiences rolling in the aisles). It is a film notable for two good acting performances, but it never seems to know where it is going or what it is supposed to be saying. 6/10
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somewhere in time, the truth must come out
lee_eisenberg22 December 2016
I wouldn't go so far as to call Mike Nichols's "Postcards from the Edge" a masterpiece. It's a good movie, but that's it. Both Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine give their best as an actress recovering from drug addiction, and her faded star of a mother. Overall, the movie depicts the entertainment industry as a bastion of emptiness and nastiness (namely in the scene where Streep's character listens to a director talk about her physique). I guess that no one rips at Hollywood more than Hollywood itself.

The movie is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Carrie Fisher. I understand that the novel is told partly in epistolary form, hence the title. The movie is told from the usual first-person perspective. It's not the most biting satire, but the conflict between the mother and daughter set the stage. In one scene, the mom recalls an awkward incident with an executive; I suspect that sort of thing happened more often than we realize.

In the end, it's worth seeing. I read that Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh were considered for the roles; I would've been inclined to cast them.
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Another great story (funny) about the movies
vidojon27 May 1999
One of my favorites, Streep & MacLaine make a great team as Mother/Daughter. My favorite scene is the ending with the band, cast and crew; It's hard to tell who is who, which makes it great.
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Brilliant and Hilarious
Independentactor18 June 2003
Carrie Fisher's "Postcards From The Edge" is brilliantly hilarious. The screenplay is wonderful, I think she should have been nominated for an Academy Award. Meryl Streep, Dennis Quaid, and Shirley MacLaine turn in amazing performances. Streep's Academy Award nominated performance is particularly great as a substance-addicted B-movie actress who must move in with her mother, whom she's not particularly fond of. I can't believe Streep lost the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1990 to Kathy Bates in "Misery," especially since "Misery" is a terrible film. I think one line in particular is especially hilarious. JACK: "I don't like this particular side of you." SUZANNE: "I'm not a box! I don't have sides! This is it, one side fits all!" Might I suggest that you check the IMDb's Memorable Quotes section for more. I recommend this film for anyone and everyone. And the book's not bad either.
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A Caustically Funny Tale of A Life In Holly-WEIRD!
cchase21 April 2006
When I first saw this film, the main impressions I walked away with were: a) there is virtually NOTHING in the world that Meryl Streep can't do, (including SING! Who knew?), b) that Shirley MacLaine will be ninety years old and still be able to act most of today's stars right off the screen, and c) that Mike Nichols, the great director of such contemporary classics as THE GRADUATE and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE was not content to just sit around and rest on his laurels, and thank God for THAT! Based on the witty, acid-tinged semi-biographical novel by Tinseltown "princess" Carrie Fisher, POSTCARDS casts Streep as an actress with an addictive personality struggling to come to terms with her drug problem and her flagging career and MacLaine as her fabulous celeb mom who is considered "olde Hollywood royalty" who has a steamer trunk's worth of her own psychological (and alcohol-related) baggage.

With a terrific script by Fisher from her own book, all Nichols literally has to do is point the cameras in the right direction and let them do what they do best. And what they do is the kind of magic you can only get from actors who love their roles, and love the fact that they have carte blanche to play with them as they will.

Not to mention that the laughs here are always honestly earned, never pandering to the audience to try and coax out easy guffaws. And with two leads doing such fantastic work, the result can only be a contagion that spreads like wildfire through an able-bodied supporting cast, who are equal to the challenge of matching performances with these two screen legends.

And what a treasure trove of talents we have here: Dennis Quaid, as a charming cad (does he play any other kind?) who represents yet another not-quite-healthy addiction that Streep's Suzanne has in her life, plus wonderful turns by Simon Callow, Annette Bening, Anthony Heald, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Robin Bartlett, Michael Ontkean, Mary Wickes, Conrad Bain and CCH Pounder! If for no other reason, watch this outstanding dramedy for what was my own personal "world premiere" hearing Meryl work out her pipes on "You Don't Know Me" and "Heartbreak Hotel"--not the Elvis version, but one that will linger in your memory, and bring a smile to your face upon recall as much as the rest of the film will.

Oh, and just go ahead and buy the sucker. Repeat viewings will be imminent, if not highly recommended.
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