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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Postcards from the Edge (1990)

"I am so glad that I got sober now so I can be hyper-conscious for this series of humiliations."
- Suzanne (Meryl Streep)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: April 25, 2001

Stars: Meryl Streep, Shirley Maclaine
Other Stars: Dennis Quaid, Rob Reiner, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Annette Bening
Director: Mike Nichols

MPAA Rating: R for (language, drug use, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:41m:32s
Release Date: May 01, 2001
UPC: 043396058484
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-BB B-

DVD Review

"I take things too hard and it's just loony. But one thing I get out of it is that I can describe the way-too-hard in a funny way and it laces the difficulty with a certain pleasure."

So said Carrie Fisher of her 1987 novel Postcards from the Edge, later turned into a film of the same name. The novel was a semi-autobiographical trip through drug rehab (Fisher has been, several times), focusing on Suzanne, a famous actress who has never really found success. In transferring the book to a screenplay, Fisher (who also wrote the script) has shifted the focus from the rehab itself to the relationships affected by it—specifically, Suzanne (Streep) and her mother's. Her mom, Doris (Maclaine), is an actress too, one of the old-time "greats"—the kind gay men worship ("Sorry, dear, but you know how much the queens love me," says Doris).

After a drug overdose and her stint in rehab, Suzanne finds her movie career in jeopardy. No directors want to hire her because of the insurance risk. She finally does find a role, in the B-level "LA Beat", but the contract comes with one stipulation—in order to insure that she "behaves" during filming, Suzanne must live with her mother until the movie is completed. So, let me get this straight. You want to keep a woman off of drugs. So you force her to live with her mother?

Ok, so the set-up is a little contrived. But what better way to set up the personality clash between the two? Doris and Suzanne's lives are set in Hollywood, but they ring true for everyone. I have an older friend (well, older than me... 31 or so) who still lives with her mother, and I swear, this film was eavesdropping on their conversations. Fisher, in her script, has perfectly captured the tension possible between a mother and daughter. Suzanne is trying to be her own person; Doris is offering plenty of advice on just how to do so. Suzanne entrenches herself in her addictions, as Doris denies her own. The pair seems to love a good argument more than anything else, but there is a grudging respect and affection underneath all the bickering.

Meryl Streep earned her millionth award nomination for this role, and more well-deserved accolades. Usually she goes for the weepy dramas, but here, she unleashes her comic sensibilities. She expertly delivers Fisher's razor-edged dialogue. Maclaine is good as well, and I'm surprised she wasn't nominated for much of anything for her work. She effectively layers the humor of her character and the pain beneath the surface, and her hospital scene near the end of the film is a high point.

The supporting cast is a who's who of Hollywood, with appearances by Dennis Quaid, Rob Reiner, Richard Dreyfuss, and Annette Bening. It is Gene Hackman, though, as the beleaguered director of one of Suzanne's films, who really stands out. He has only one major scene, but it is the most heartfelt and touching in the film, and he delivers it with real sincerity. On the commentary track, Fisher said of Hackman's performance: "I wished someone would come in and say all this s*** to me."

Some have criticized Fisher's screenplay for losing sight of the addiction/recovery aspect and focusing on the mother and daughter relationship. Perhaps those complaints are warranted, but that's a different film. Postcards from the Edge is, simply, about the messiness of the mother/daughter bond.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Columbia-Tristar always seems to do very nice work with their catalogue titles. Postcards from the Edge comes off looking very nice as well. A lot of movies from the 1980s tend to look rather dingy and washed out compared to newer films, and the colors in Postcards... don't jump off the screen by any means, but they still look clear and natural. The black level is ok, with some scenes looking overly murky or grainy. I noted no instances of artifacting or edge-enhancement, and just a bit of visible film grain. Overall, this looks very good considering the age of the film. A full-frame transfer is also provided, for all you DVD heathens.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanish, Portugueseyes

Audio Transfer Review: This is your standard DD 2.0 dialogue-heavy track. All of the sound is confined to the front soundstage except for some background crowd noise. Other than that, the dialogue is well supported and clear, and is nicely mixed with the score. There's nothing special about the track, but there doesn't need to be.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jerry Maguire, As Good as it Gets
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by screenwriter Carrie Fisher
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras on this disc are fairly limited, but still quite nice for a catalogue release of a relatively small film. Aside from talent files and bonus trailers for Jerry Maguire and As Good as it Gets (sadly, the trailer for Postcards... is not included), there is a commentary from Princess Leia herself, screenwriter Carrie Fisher!

Fisher is very funny and forthcoming about her inspiration for the film, and she gets in some great lines (my personal favorite: "Sometimes I talk in bumper stickers, it's just that they're on the back of a weird car."). She speaks (in her million dollar voice - no doubt honed through years of cigarette smoking) quite a lot at the start of the film, but about halfway through, she seems to settle in, watching more and speaking less. Still, this is a very funny track with some great stories about the film and about growing up in Hollywood in general. She certainly seems to keep her fame and her drug problem in perspective. Normally I'd give a disc with a commentary as the sole extra a C, but I enjoyed this one so much, I'm bumping it to a B-.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Postcards from the Edge is, on the surface, a very funny "Hollywood insider" comedy. It certainly hasn't lost its edge, considering all the much-publicized celebrity drug problems of late. Really, though, this is about the relationship between a mother and daughter, and really, from where else could spring such dysfunctional comedy? Carrie Fisher has written a brilliantly witty script, and Streep and Maclaine give great performances. Definitely recommended, and not just to the "chick flick" crowd.


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