Friday, 29 January 2010

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Carrie Fisher has always entertained me, right from the time when I first saw her in Star Wars as the feisty Princess Leia to her occasional welcome appearances on TV chat shows or cameo roles in other films.

Since those halcyon days of the 1970s, I have often followed the fortunes of the three principal heroes of Star wars: Harrison Ford became the star he is today thanks to Han Solo and Indiana Jones, Mark Hamill's film career lived and died ultimately with the name of Luke Skywalker, and whilst Carrie Fisher similarly remains Princess Leia to most people, her alternative career path is perhaps the most interesting of the three.

Her talents as an acerbic wit only really came to the fore, ironically, when she nearly put an end to her life after an overdose of drugs (the cause was later diagnosed as manic depression.) The resulting rehabilitation process formed the basis of the novel Postcards from the Edge, telling the story (through multiple narratives) of Suzanne Vale, a thinly veiled reworking of Carrie Fisher: a semi-successful but hardly self-fulfilled star actress, who sought to solve life's missing pieces by taking drugs.

The book's anecdotal and only partially conventional structure was too abstract for Carrie to adapt into a film, and so her screenplay of the novel concentrates instead on one incidental part of the story, namely the relationship between Suzanne Vale and her mother - an equally veiled version of Debbie Reynolds, played with perfect aplomb and sympathy by Shirley MacLaine, who gently steals the show from her on-screen daughter Meryl Streep - among many others in an impressive cast gathered together by Mike Nichols, including Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, Richard Dreyfuss (himself a fellow manic depressive), and others.

Streep is the consummate actress, whether playing big roles or small, and her recent enduring success thanks to the likes of Mama Mia and Julie and Julia just shows how well her talent (and self-determination) has lasted her out. If I have only one qualm with this particular film, it is that I find it hard to imagine Meryl Streep as a semi-successful actress with identity crises. That role is, to most intents and purposes, Carrie Fisher. And maybe, if drugs, celebrity fame and manic depression hadn't got in the way, then maybe Carrie Fisher would have been as distinguished as Meryl Streep.

As it is, I'm quite happy with both of them. And the film.

Postcards from the Edge premieres in the UK at Odeon Leicester Square (right), January 1991.

No comments:

100 Favourite Films

100 Favourite Films