Postcards from the Edge Reviews
On paper, this movie had everything going for it: based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Carrie Fisher with screenplay also written by her, directed by Mike Nichols, starring Meryl Streep as Suzanne and Shirley MacLaine as Doris. With that semi-true-story background and those big names involved, surely it should be brilliant?
Well, no. It's not bad, but it feels strangely flat. It's really just a linear story with no great drama or profundities, though there were plenty of opportunities for both.
It does have its comedic moments but it's hardly a laugh-a-minute.
Therein lies the problem, I suspect. By trying to be both a comedy and a drama it succeeds at neither.
Not that this is a terrible movie, not by any means. It is never dull, moving along at a good pace, the ending is pretty good and Meryl Streep puts in a great performance (for which she got an Oscar nomination). It just could have been so much better.
Postcards from the Edge is a strong film because of the fact that it deals with edgy material in such a straightforward and yet humourous way. The subject matter in the film is very confronting, and the lighthearted nature of the film manages to make it easier to handle since the blunt realism in everything is both dramatic and funny in its own ways. The general mood of the film is easygoing which is beneficial in its own way because it ensures the film makes for easy viewing, but as a whole I feel like this kind of approach is both hit and miss.
Postcards from the Edge doesn't exactly confront its material in the best possible way though. It deals with themes of recovery from drug addiction, a complicated mother-daughter relationship and the way that people are treated in Hollywood, particularly women. By confronting these concepts in a lighthearted manner, Postcards from the Edge overlooks a lot of dramatic potential in favour of a less melodramatic angle which is admirable in parts but also means that the dramatic effect of the film is limited at times. It is not always as strong as it can be, and this is a general consensus for the film for better and for worse. For me, the film felt somewhat distant and that it didn't explore its characters or particularly the relationship between Suzanne Vale and Doris Mann as well as it could have. There was much more focus on the Hollywood scene than the more deep and complex elements of the characters which made Postcards from the Edge somewhat shallow in its own way, and considering the fact that it is based on a semi-autobiographical story about Carrie Fisher's relationship with her mother Debbie Reynolds, I felt that Mike Nichols didn't precisely capture the edge of the story. I can't say for sure because I have never read the source material, but I will say that the film intrigued me enough to go out and do that because there was enough charm in it to make for reasonable viewing. It isn't perfect and the material certainly hasn't aged perfectly, but it still contains a distinctive charm which comes into play thanks to Carrie Fisher's screenplay and the handling that Mike Nichols gives to it. He is one of the strongest driving forces in bringing the material to life, and while he may not do it perfectly, he is certainly able to achieve that with a sense of style under his belt. Under his direction, the subject matter of the film is brought to life and is given an interesting mood which keeps things entertaining even if the events are not as entertaining as they could have been.
The one thing which never has any trouble coming to life in Postcards from the Edge is the exceptional cast, led by the always magnificent Meryl Streep.
Meryl Streep is a great lead in Postcards from the Edge. As an actress who has made a name for herself performing in very complex character parts, it is intriguing to see her in the role of an actress because it makes the reality of the film more encouraging, and she just sinks her teeth into the role. She captures the part with edge in terms of both comedy and drama, and she shares a remarkable chemistry with every other cast member in many different ways. Meryl Streep constantly keeps the spirits alive in Postcards from the Edge with a performance rich with charisma and of her tension in every situation be it for the drama or the laughs, and she is able to make her part a really likable one which illuminates her natural spirit as an actress. Her physical involvement in the character is impressive because she always seems on edge in one way or another with Suzanne Vale, and it is a very interesting step for her as an actress.
Shirley MacLaine is also strong. What she presents in her role is a sense of something being hidden in the subtext of her relationship with the daughter of her character, while on the surface she maintains a likable demeanour. It is artificial, but gleefully artificial to the point that the only time viewers are likely to remember it is when there is a true confrontation that goes on with her character. Shirley MacLaine takes on the role well mainly because of the fact that her chemistry with Meryl Streep is thoroughly impressive since both actresses are able to benefit from each other's charismatic talent really well. The interactions of the two Academy Award winning actresses is thoroughly impressive to behold because the two of them remain so consistently passionate about the material the entire time without failing to deal with it for a second. While Shirley MacLaine may not have as much screen time as you might hope for an actress of her calibre, she has no trouble making an impact during her small quantity of time and contributes to characterizing Suzanne Vale nicely.
Dennis Quaid is also good. The actor continues to impress me with every role he takes on, and even his small part in Postcards from the Edge is great because of the chemistry he shares with Meryl Streep. There is a certain sense of passion that goes on between them, and the young charms of Dennis Quaid make him an easily likable foil whenever he is around. He has a passionate spirit to him and a distinctive sense of charm which makes him a mildly interesting presence.
So Postcards from the Edge is not the complex mother-daughter film that it could have been, but with Mike Nichols' stylish direction and Meryl Streep delivering a powerful leading performance, there is enough to make it an entertaining experience.