Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher – Book Review
Upon the recent and tragic passing of the wonderful Carrie Fisher, I decided to revisit some of her writing, and first up was Postcards from the Edge. What a wonderful book – fabulous sarcasm wrapped up in self-doubt and the wondrous world of Hollywood in the eighties. It’s mostly told from the point of view of Suzanne Vale, an actress who has a drug issue and is facing reaching her thirties in the middle of a superficial world.
It’s a great read – a quick read, spaced out like a series of vignettes, almost a semi formed book. But what confused me, and made me really want to watch the film is the fact that Suzanne’s mother is mentioned once, maybe twice in the book, but yet is part of the poster for the film – how was this film translated from the book?
Postcards from the Edge (1990) – Film Review
Fisher has taken the key storyline of her novel, Suzanne Vale’s recovery from drug addiction and added in a whole lot of her mother. And with Meryl Streep playing Suzanne and Shirley MacLaine playing her mother, how could you not want more of them! These two women know comedy, and they know drama, and they know that both come playing it real, and even when being over the top. It’s funny and sad and crazy and fabulous.
C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is your average working Joe but with one difference – he has managed to get into a situation where his apartment is being used by several men above him at work as a love nest for their illicit affairs. He’s not happy with the situation, but seems unable to extract himself. He’s interested in the cute and sassy elevator gal Fran Kubelick (Shirley McLaine), but she’s hesitant.
It’s a comedy of errors with some genuine tragedy and emotion. I must admit, I never got the appeal of Shirley McLaine. I always thought she was a bit a nuts old woman who heard from the spirit world and liked Andrew Peacock. When you see a performance like this, you see what she is all about. I’m now desperate to see more of her work; funny and dry and delightful. And then Jack Lemmon; the man who makes what are probably well-crafted lines seem like off the cuff comments. Wonderful. It won a whole lot of awards and inspired many filmmakers, and no wonder. It’s so well crafted, even though it feels very much of its time, it hasn’t dated. Having said that, I hope no-one ever decides to remake The Apartment because it would be a total disaster.
The Apartment won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Writing, Story and Screenplay -Written Directly for the Screen, Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Film Editing and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon) Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLaine), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Kruschen), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Joseph LaShelle) and Best Sound.
What happens when you get a whole bunch of stars together to tell a whole bunch of stories? Valentine’s Day. And much as I expected to dislike it, being very Hollywood and corny… I loved it. I loved the romance, I loved the slightly unexpected twists (and that many of the twists were not that unexpected), it was just great.
I’m not going to try to recount the plots – there were just so many intertwining. All you need to know is that in LA on this particular Valentine’s Day, heaps of people interact. Some get together, some don’t, some break up, some rekindle their love. It’s gentle and fun and has a huge cast. If you get sick of the stories, you can spend some time trying to name everyone in the film. This is a great film to know for playing 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
There’s a small town in East Texas called Carthage where, in 1996, a local funeral director murdered a widow and covered up her death for nine-months. However, the funeral director was so loved in the community that, even when he confessed to the crime, citizens petitioned for his release. This much is true.
In the film, Bernie (the funeral director) is portrayed by the versatile Jack Black in a surprisingly understated performance. The character is quirky, but not unbelievably so, especially alongside the regular residents of the town. He’s joined by a handful of other actors including the marvelous Shirly MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, with the rest of the townsfolk playing themselves. And this is where I think the film fell down in quite a major way. It’s like it isn’t quite sure of what it is – is it a fiction based on truth or is it a documentary with reenactments? If it is a documentary, then it is not clear that the reenactments are just that – it would seem to be presenting it all as fact. Having the townspeople who have been vox popped throughout the film within reenactment scenes is confusing. On the other hand, if it is a fiction, it really didn’t need to have such reliance on the interviews.
I think it would have been fantastic either way, but as it is, it feels a bit like an amazing story that hasn’t been told as well as it could have.
Jack Black was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy of Musical.