Postcards from the Edge (1990) starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner directed by Mike Nichols Movie Review

Postcards from the Edge (1990)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Meryl Streep as Suzanne Vale in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

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I reckon few people come to watch "Postcards from the Edge" without knowing that this is Carrie Fisher's story dealing with issues from being a show business daughter and drug addiction problems. But then whilst obviously written from personal experience how does that come across to the average viewer who doesn't know the ins and outs of Carrie Fisher's story? Well thankfully it comes over quite brilliantly because whilst for those in the know there are plenty of obvious personal references the fact we have a fictitious actress and a show business mother makes it more generic as if it is just about the issues which many showbiz children have to deal with.

Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep - Out of Africa) was an actress with potential but she was also an actress with a drug problem which after an accidental O.D. and spell in rehab has left her an insurance risk. Desperate to make the movie she had planned to Suzanne agrees to move in with her showbiz mother Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine - Steel Magnolias), a supposedly responsible adult who can't admit that she has a drinking problem. That is not the only problem because as Doris's daughter Suzanne has always felt she is in her shadow and having to deal with a woman who fears being over shadowed by her own daughter. But despite various ups and downs the forced living arrangement leads to some bonding and understanding.

Shirley MacLaine as Doris Mann in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

You have to say that Carrie Fisher who adapted her novel into the screenplay for "Postcards from the Edge" has done a wonderful job because there are the two sides to it as we have the generic tale of being a showbiz daughter but there are enough obvious personal touches so that you can see the connection to Fisher's own story. So what does that mean, well you might say it means we have a cliche storyline of an actress living in her mother's shadow and struggling with it, throw in with that the craziness of showbiz life where as a child Suzanne was given sleeping tablets. But the thing is that whilst we have this fictitious series of character we could be talking about any number of celebrities with famous parents from Liza Minnelli to Drew Barrymore and it feels real.

But that in many ways is just the basis to "Postcards from the Edge" because what we also get is mother and daughter working through their issues in their own strained ways. Again it all feels very believable when we watch Suzanne and Doris row because of that living in the shadow element really coming to the fore especially when Suzanne accuses Doris of always trying to steal her limelight be it at birthday parties or flirting with boyfriends. And all of this has a wonderful comical side which certainly comes to the fore with the humorous behind the scenes of the movie world. There are so many funny scenes revolving around the industry but none more so which features the classic ledge hanging scene you see in various movies. In fact with a whole host of stars, the behind the scenes and some subtle and less than subtle movie and actor references "Postcards from the Edge" is a joy for movie fans.

Now when it comes to acting there could have been plenty of actual mother daughters to take on the roles but in the end having Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine was the best thing they could have done. In fact being non related makes it easier for the story to remain generic yet with touches of Fisher's personal life, none more so when we see MacLaine in a Debbie Reynolds style sparkling dress. Both Streep and MacLaine deliver brilliant characters and the focus on the family dynamics with Doris being pushy whilst Suzanne feeling over shadowed is where the movie comes to life with two major confrontations later on in the movie where they basically battle and bond being captivating.

What this all boils down to is that "Postcards from the Edge" is an unsurprisingly brilliant movie which not only takes us comically behind the scenes of the movie industry but also into the strained relationship between a showbiz mother and daughter. Whilst there are numerous references to Fisher's own life and battle with addiction the fact that it is a fictitious set up makes it much easier to watch, basically encompassing so many well known Hollywood family stories.