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Wayback Wednesday: Soapdish (1991)

All My Children better spend that One Life to Live watching this Bold and Beautiful movie over and over again!

Over the past week I’ve been catching up on some recent releases that I missed when they first came out. I have to say, I am utterly baffled at how needlessly convoluted movies have become these days. For example, I watched both Fantasy Island (2020) and Cruella (2021) and I was shocked at how instead of having a straightforward plot, both movies decided to cram at least six different storylines of varying interest into one overstuffed story. Both movies ended up being a clusterfuck of ideas that while showed a lot of promise, ended up being a chore to watch. Now, I don’t know about you, but I prefer my movie-watching experiences to be easy, breezy, and endlessly enjoyable. So for this week’s Wayback I decided to review a movie that is both outrageously fun to watch and easy to follow plotwise. Which is ironic considering that Soapdish (1991) is a sendup of the often convoluted plots of daytime soap operas!

Credit: / Paramount Pictures

Soapdish tells the backstage stories of the cast and crew of the fictional daytime soap opera, The Sun Also Sets. Celeste Talbert, the long-time and beloved star of the show, is going through a personal crisis as her former lover and co-star, actor Jeffrey Anderson, returns to the show, upsetting the excitement she has over her niece, the sweet Lori Craven, joining the cast as an extra. Meanwhile, Montana Moorehead, Celeste’s bitter and jealous co-star, schemes with producer David Seton Barnes to get Celeste off the show and rise to fame herself.

Whew. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Soapdish! The movie is an uproariously satirical take on the over the top hijinks that happens on soap operas and wonderfully translates those tropes and clichés into a biting comedy that will have you laughing from start to finish. If you’re going to watch one comedy about the behind-the-scenes of show business I highly recommend that you watch this one. Seriously, this movie is fabulously funny. From the first time I saw Soapdish I instantly fell in love with it and now a handful of viewings later I become more and more enamoured with it each time I watch it. It seems like with each new viewing I find a new hilarious line to laugh at, a new fabulous costume to obsess over, or a new performance to sing the praises of. There’s a reason I count this movie as one of my favourite comedies. I think that I would go as far as to put Soapdish on the same level comedy-wise as classics like Clueless (1995) and The Birdcage (1996). By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. Soapdish possesses the same whimsy, charm, and problem patterns (the fashion in this movie!) of the best movies from the 1990s. If you’re at all a fan of movies like Clueless, The Birdcage and other campy masterpieces, you absolutely need to check out Soapdish. It’s a severely underrated and often overlooked campy 90s delight that most likely stars at least three of your favourite actors.

Trust me when I say that the cast of Soapdish is star-studded. Seriously, EVERYONE you would want to be in this outlandishly zany comedy is in this movie. You’ve got Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Elisabeth Shue, Robert Downey Jr., Whoopi Goldberg…and that’s just to name a few! Special shoutout to the always amazing Carrie Fisher for her brief but iconic role as casting agent Betsy Faye Sharon. Her earnest reading of “Hi, I’m Betsy Faye Sharon and I’m a bitch,” is perhaps one of my favourite parts of a movie that has no shortage of memorable scenes. I’m such a fan of everyone in this movie, honestly. They’re all fantastic comedic actors who understand tone and timing so well. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to watch Downey Jr. in a role that isn’t Iron Man. I truly forgot how funny and talented he is when he’s given A) a brilliantly witty script and B) a character that is unlike how you usually see the actor. I could watch his bumbling, frantic, sneaky schemes all day. As both their characters and their characters on The Sun Also Sets, the entire cast camps it way up and chews the scenery as if it were made of Oreo cheesecake brownies. Which is kind of my specialty in the kitchen and if you ask nicely, I will make for you when you come over for dinner. Everyone nails the wacky, satirical tone that Soapdish is going for and completely understands the type of irreverent comedy they’re acting in. You can tell how well the cast understands tone because everyone delivers such an on-brand and top-notch performance that it’s incredibly difficult for me to pick who’s my favourite. Kline? Shue? Goldberg? I love them all!

That being said, I think I have no choice but to pick Field as my favourite part of Soapdish. Is anyone surprised? What an absolute fucking queen. Steel Magnolias (1989)? Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)? I love Sally Field! The fact that she hasn’t been in a movie since 2017 is a crime and my villain origin story. Field is a marvellous actress who can tackle any genre and her performance in Soapdish is a great example why. As Celeste, Field gives it her all and is doing the most in the best possible way. A lesser actress would have phoned this role in but Field tackles the role with the utmost passion, delivering a comedic performance that deserves all the attention. The unbridled fire that she brings to this flippant diva is perfection. You never know what Celeste is going to do or say next, whether it’s breaking down in hysterical crying fits or screaming at her costumer that she “doesn’t feel quite right in a turban. What I feel like is Gloria fucking Swanson!” I can guarantee that you’ll always be wildly entertained when Field is onscreen. When Celeste dramatically steps into the street to be hit by a bus rather than face her personal problems, I die with laughter every time. Field especially shines in scenes with Kline and Goldberg, sharing an effortless and amazing back and forth with each ridiculously talented actor. Kline and Goldberg….man oh man are those two sensational scene-stealers in Soapdish. God, I could go on about this cast forever!

Full of golden one-liners, witty retorts, and subtle shade, Soapdish and its astounding writing are a fabulously good time that need to be experienced by all. I just found out today that screenwriter Robert Harling also write Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club (1996) which probably explains why I’m such a fan of this ridiculously quotable movie! I had the biggest, stupidest smile on my face as I enjoyed this charming and wonderfully wacky lighthearted comedy. This movie is so silly and fun it just makes me so happy. Definitely watch this if you’re in need of an instant boost in joy. One of the great things about Soapdish that makes it so enjoyable is that it’s perfectly paced. It speeds along so quickly and so entertainingly that at the 53 minute mark I couldn’t believe that it was already that far along.. This is one of those movies I don’t want to end and almost wish there were an extra 15 minutes added to the runtime. It hits every comedic beat and there are never any sour spots that you want to skip over or look at your phone during. Hollywood (at least mainstream Hollywood that is) doesn’t seem to make silly, small, straightforward and fun movies like this with actors like Cathy Moriarty and Kathy Najimy anymore. We need them! I wish we could have more wacky originals like Soapdish being made rather than more tired reboots, comic book adaptations, and sequels to decades old movies. 

If you haven’t seen Soapdish already, than oh my God what are you doing with your life? Hilarious, engaging, and just the most fun you could have with anything even remotely related to a soap opera, please go find a way to immediately watch this movie. Finally, let me just say this. If you’re a fan of Schitt’s Creek (2015 – 2020), you’ll get a kick out of the way Field constantly screams “David, David, DAVID!” over and over again. 

Have you seen Soapdish?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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