Mike Nichols’ film of Carrie Fisher’s novel Postcards from the ed ge packs a fair amount of emotional wallop in its dark-hued comic take on a chemically dependent Hollywood mother and daughter (Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep).
Streep’s tour through Hollywood hell is signposted with many recognizable, on-target types: predatory macho creep (Dennis Quaid), sleazy business manager (Gary Morton), oafish producer (Rob Reiner), airheaded and roundheeled actress (Annette Bening) and sternly paternalistic director (Gene Hackman).
Refreshingly guileless in a role requiring casual clothing and no accent, Streep plays an overgrown child who’s spent her life in her mother’s shadow and has resorted to drugs to blunt her pain and boredom.
While casting of MacLaine in the role of an arch, ditzy, impossible stage mother is somewhat predictable, the actress gradually makes it her own until, stripped of her glamour in the climactic scene, she abandons the rampant egotism of the character to reveal the frightened creature underneath.
(Nichols insists, for the record, that the character isn’t based on Fisher’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, even though MacLaine’s wickedly salacious memories of life at Louis B. Mayer’s M-G-M might suggest otherwise.)
1990: Nominations: Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Song (‘I’m Checkin’ Out’)