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Wayback Wednesday: Postcards from the Edge (1990)

More Oscar-winning actresses playing sassy mothers and daughters, please!

While my mom and I were watching Heartbreakers (2001) recently (a hilariously underrated hidden gem of a comedy that I highly recommend, by the way) we were both happily surprised to see an all-too-brief cameo from the one and only Carrie Fisher. Entranced by her undeniable charm and humour, we both agreed what a shame it was that Fisher hadn’t been in more movies that weren’t part of the Star Wars (1977 – present) franchise. It’s a bummer to know that there aren’t too many opportunities to see Fisher in non-Princess-Leia roles (even though that character is fucking amazing) but what makes the fact more bearable is knowing that their exists a project that although doesn’t star Fisher, is dripping with her distinct voice. Postcards from the Edge (1990) is a fiery and enlightening movie that deserves to be seen by everyone who even remotely considers themselves to be a fan of Fisher’s.

Credit: imdb.com / Columbia Pictures

Based on Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, Postcards from the Edge tells the story of Suzanne Vale, a substance-addicted actress who’s just gotten out of rehab. To remain employed, she’s forced to move in with her overbearing mother who herself is a famous actress.

Only a filmmaker like Mike Nichols could have directed this movie. The director, who has directed classic movies such as The Graduate (1967), Working Girl (1988) and The Birdcage (1996) – check out my review, here – is a master of creating a movie that is as versatile thematically as the cast he assembles. I’ve found that his movies are usually marketed one way, as a drama or a comedy, and then have subtle touches of both genres that make the movie as a whole a thoroughly beautiful thing to watch. Case in point, Postcards from the Edge starts with a drug overdose and ends with a country musical number. It really runs the gamut. From start to finish, Nichols makes some damn entertaining movies. I don’t know this for a fact but I’d like to think that Fisher had a lot of creative control during filming. Or at least collaborated very closely with Nichols. I mean, the movie is so transparent and honest about what it means to not only be an actress, but have one for a mother as well, that it’s almost as if Fisher is sitting in my living room telling me personal stories over a bottle or two of wine. 

It’s no secret how semi-autobiographical of Fisher’s life and her relationship with her mother that Postcards from the Edge is. It’s a lot like Dreamgirls (2006) – check out my review, here – in that way. Like I said, it’s EXTREMELY transparent with the allusions it makes and the themes it explores. One of which is the somewhat satirical, cutting takedown of what it’s like to be a middle-aged actress in Hollywood. As well as being a quippy and tense portrayal of the relationship between mothers and daughters, Postcards from the Edge is also a fun behind-the-scenes look at the movie industry. Oh! Watching this back to back with Soapdish (1991) – check out my review, here – would make for a FABULOUS double feature movie night. Sigh…Remember 1990s movies and how simply entertaining they were? Mid-budget movies that perfectly rode the line between comedy and drama, making for an all-around sensational movie-watching experience? I’m talking about movies like A League of Their Own (1992), Clueless (1995), Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997) and The Truman Show (1998). Ahhh, I miss those kind of movies. If you’re yearning for the kind of simple pleasures that come from watching a well-written, fantastically acted and superbly directed movie, than this movie is one that I think you’ll enjoy. 

Postcards from the Edge certainly brings together a collection of my favourite people. Not only Fisher and Nichols, but also Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine as Suzanne and her mother, Doris, respectively. Honestly, either one of these characters would make for an interesting protagonist and it’s an engaging relationship that is written brilliantly by Fisher and acted wonderfully by Streep and MacLaine. The rapport between these two women is phenomenal and feels very genuine, truly like we’re watching a struggling woman learning to deal with her eclectic mother. What’s so great about these performances is that as much friction and tension as you can tell there is between Suzanne and Doris, there’s just as much appreciation and love. It’s fleeting but it’s there. I realize it’s an impossibly high bar, but they just don’t make multi-talented stars like Streep and MacLaine anymore. Sure, a lot of performers are inclined to have acting AND singing careers, but few can genuinely call themselves singers and actors like these two legendary performers. 

No matter the relationship you have with your parents, solid or frayed, there is a ton to relate to in Postcards from the Edge. Both from a comedic standpoint and from a “yikes, this is so me and my parent” standpoint. But even if you don’t find anything to relate to, this is still an enjoyable movie that trust me, you’ll find something to love. Even if all that you love is the sight of 1990 Dennis Quaid. Moms who had a crush on him in that decade, I get it now.

Have you seen Postcards from the Edge? What’s you favourite Meryl Streep movie?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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