Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1990. Columbia Pictures Corporation. Screenplay by Carrie Fisher, based on her novel. Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. Produced by John Calley, Mike Nichols. Music by Carly Simon. Production Design by Patrizia von Brandenstein. Costume Design by Ann Roth. Film Editing by Sam O’Steen. Academy Awards 1990. Golden Globe Awards 1990.
Carrie Fisher penned the screenplay for this dead-on comedy based on her acclaimed novel, one that does a better job of airing out Hollywood family secrets than most films before it. Meryl Streep is a wonder as a burned out actress (based on Fisher) whose drug dependency is getting in the way of her work. Following a near-fatal overdose, she is checked into a rehab centre for treatment of her addiction and then, when released, discovers that Hollywood insurance companies won’t cover her for another film role unless she agrees to live with a responsible party. This means, in short, that she has to move back in with her mother (Shirley MacLaine, a role based loosely on Fisher’s mother Debbie Reynolds). What was originally an inner monologue in the novel, where the character’s mother only made an appearance on a few pages, has been opened up into a dialogue between two very charismatic ladies: the author’s acute understanding of the two media allows her to write a very different screenplay from her novel but an incredibly faithful and skillful one, full of hilarious one-liners, ridiculous circumstances, and some incredible showdowns between the two leading ladies. Streep gives a performance that somehow makes her seem so much more vulnerable and inexperienced than you’ve ever seen her; she was forty when she made this movie and yet with her mannerisms and constant confusion looks like a twenty-nine year-old who never got over her troubled teens (okay, to be fair, the hairstyles and Ann Roth’s hip wardrobe really help too). Dennis Quaid co-stars as the heartless producer who just happens to be right there when Streep needs him least, MacLaine is astoundingly fresh and energetic, and the overall effort is one of the smartest, most accomplished films of the year. Then it ends with Streep doing a kick-ass job of singing country music, Shel Silverstein’s Oscar-nominated song ‘I’m Checkin’ Out’ one of the greatest songs ever written for motion pictures in the last thirty years.