Monday, January 23, 2017

Postcards from the Edge

Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Carrie Fisher that is based on her autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge is the story of a recovering drug-addicted actress who is forced to move back in with her boozy mother, who is also an entertainer, as she copes with her own troubled life and her turbulent relationship with her mother. The film is a fictionalized-take on Fisher’s own real-life relationship with her own mother Debbie Reynolds as well as her own substance abuse. Starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid, Richard Dreyfuss, Simon Callow, Annette Bening, Rob Reiner, and Gene Hackman. Postcards from the Edge is a witty and delightful film from Mike Nichols.

The film follows the turbulent love-hate relationship between a troubled actress and her boozy mother as the former has just recovered from a drug overdose where she is forced to move back home with her mother for insurance reasons or else she couldn’t work again. It’s a film that play into this troubled mother-daughter relationship between two women in the world of entertainment as the singer/actress/entertainer Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine) is a woman that has a lot of connections and such but is in denial over her alcoholism. Doris’ daughter Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) is an actress that has been trying to step out of her mother’s shadow but has become a liability due to her drug abuse. Carrie Fisher’s screenplay doesn’t just play into the turmoil over this relationship but also two women who do care for each other but often bring the worst in each other.

Fisher’s script isn’t just filled with some witty dialogue that are quite memorable but also in the way Suzanne and Doris deal with their own situations. Much of the film is about Suzanne as it opens with her on a film set obviously under the influence and then the next morning be seen overdosing on a mixture of pills and drugs as she is dropped off by a one-night stand. It sets the course of Suzanne being forced into rehab as she tries to embrace sobriety yet she realizes what she has to do while also starring in a low-budget film just so that she can keep working. It become a series of humiliations that she has to endure though she would find some solace in dating a producer named Jack Faulkner (Dennis Quaid) but Doris doesn’t think he’s good news. Doris is just as interesting as she’s from the old school but has very little clue of what she does to Suzanne as it is clear she wants the attention but it only makes Suzanne very insecure.

Mike Nichols’ direction is quite simple in some respects yet it does have some elements of style starting with the film’s opening tracking shot that is essentially part of a film shoot that Suzanne is in as it goes on for a few minutes. Shot largely in Los Angeles and at some studio lots, the film does play into the high-octane world of Hollywood where there is so much expectations out there. While Nichols’ usage of close-ups and medium shots help play into moments that are intimate as well as in some of the dramatic moments. Nichols’ wide shots do play into that world of Hollywood from Suzanne’s homecoming party to what goes on at a film set and some of the scenes set on certain locations such as Faulkner’s lavish home. Nichols’ approach to comedy is quite low-key yet he always finds a way to keep things lively whether it’s in a few musical numbers or moments that has Suzanne in a humiliating moment and reacting to her situation. The dramatic moments are just as important as it play into Suzanne trying to make sense of why she’s so screwed up as well as confronting her mother about who she is and such. Overall, Nichols creates a riveting and engaging film about the tumultuous relationship between an entertainer and her recovering daughter.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s largely straightforward for many of the daytime interior/exterior scenes with some lighting for some of the studio interior shots and for the scenes at night. Editor Sam O’Steen does brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cutting to play into the comedy and some of the drama. Production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein, with set decorator Chris Butler and art director Kandy Stern, does fantastic work with the design of some of the Hollywood sets and how fake they look in low-budget films as well as the home where Doris lives in. Costume designer Ann Roth does nice work with the costumes from the posh clothing of Doris to the more casual look of Suzanne which both play into their personalities.

Hair stylist/makeup artist J. Roy Helland, with additional work by Greg Cannom does terrific work with the look of some of the characters with Cannom doing personal work for the character of Doris. Sound editor Stan Bochner does superb work with the sound as it play into the world of film as well as the moments in Suzanne‘s homecoming party. The film’s music by Carly Simon is wonderful as it‘s a mixture of low-key piano and orchestral music while music supervisor Howard Shore help provide a few score pieces of his own as well a selection of tunes that include a couple of standards as well as a song for the film’s ending.

The casting by Ellen Lewis and Juliet Taylor is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Dana Ivey as a wardrobe mistress, C.C.H. Pounder as a rehab supervisor, Robin Bartlett as Suzanne’s roommate in rehab, Oliver Platt as an associate producer who is concerned about Suzanne’s performance, Rob Reiner as a film producer who tells Suzanne that she needs to prove that she’s sober, Gary Morton as a studio executive who tells Suzanne that she needs to live with her mother for duration of the film shoot, Simon Callow as Suzanne’s new filmmaker who isn’t sure if Suzanne will be reliable, and Richard Dreyfuss in a superb small role as a doctor who would save Suzanne’s life after her overdose. Conrad Bain and Mary Wickes are fantastic as Doris’ parents with Wickes being hilarious as the mother who says some very funny shit throughout the film.

Annette Bening is wonderful in her one-scene performance as an actress co-starring in Suzanne’s film who would reveal some startling information relating to Faulkner. Gene Hackman is excellent as filmmaker Lowell Kolchek as a director who works with Suzanne early in the film as he is someone that cares about her but knows she is messed up where he is more sympathetic to her plight. Dennis Quaid is brilliant as Jack Faulkner as a film producer who is the one-night stand that Suzanne was with but doesn’t know as he is a guy full of charm but there is something off about him that only Doris knows. Finally, there’s the duo of Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Suzanne Vale and Doris Mann. Streep provides that sense of fragility and humility into her performance as a woman who is really fucked-up and is trying to recover but is having a hard time trying to find the root of her issues. MacLaine’s performance as Doris is someone that exudes charisma as well as be someone that likes to over-talk and such. Streep and MacLaine together are a marvel to watch in the way they deal with other from the arguments to trying to one-up each other.

Postcards from the Edge is an incredible film from Mike Nichols that features sensational performances from Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Along with Carrie Fisher’s intense screenplay, a fantastic supporting cast, and some very funny moments. It’s a film that doesn’t just play into the dysfunctions of a mother-daughter relationship but also dealing with expectations and identity. In the end, Postcards from the Edge is a spectacular film from Mike Nichols.

Mike Nichols Films: (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) - (The Graduate) - (Catch-22) - Carnal Knowledge - (The Day of the Dolphin) - (The Fortune) - (Gilda Live) - (Silkwood) - (Heartburn) - (Biloxi Blues) - Working Girl - (Regarding Henry) - (Wolf (1994 film)) - The Birdcage - (Primary Colors) - (What Planet Are You From?) - (Wit) - (Angels in America) - Closer (2004 film) - (Charlie Wilson’s War)

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