Postcards from the Edge

From Academic Kids

Postcards from the Edge is a 1990 Columbia Pictures comedy/drama motion picture starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine, with Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, Mary Wickes, Conrad Bain, Annette Bening, Simon Callow, Gary Morton, and CCH Pounder.

It was adapted for the screen by Carrie Fisher, based on her 1987 fictionalized semi-autobiographical novel of the same title, and directed by Mike Nichols.

It received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep) and Best Music, Original Song (Shel Silverstein for "I'm Checkin' Out").

101 mins.; color

The story is about a movie actress, Suzanne Vale (played by Streep), who is a recovering drug addict trying to pick up the pieces of her career and get on with her life. After completing a project with director Lowell Korshack (played by Hackman), she overdosed and was rushed to the hospital, where her stomach was pumped by Dr. Frankenthal (played by Dreyfuss).

After being discharged from a rehab center, she returns to work. She then learns from the head of the studio, Joe Pierce (played by Reiner), she can only be cleared by the insurance people if she tests for drugs regularly and lives with her famous mother, Doris Mann (played by MacLaine), a bright star of the past whose wine consumption seems alcoholic to Vale.

It is not easy for Vale, as she struggled for years to get away from her mother. Things are not made any better when Mann, a brassy, upstaging, competitive woman, who continuously changes the subject to herself, gives her daughter loaded advice and insinuating value judgments while treating her like a child. Her mother's husband, Marty Wiener (played by Morton), watches TV all the time, in his own world (shades of Harry Karl).

Vale's maternal grandpa (played by Bain) is a quiet man, while her down-to-earth, plainspoken grandma (played by Wickes) is a wisecracking and crotchety old woman. It occurs to Vale that not only do daughters have mothers, mothers do too.

She has further troubles with the man in her life, catching boyfriend Jack Faulkner (played by Quaid) with another woman when she drives to his place directly from the studio while still in her police costume. As she turns and walks to her car, he becomes insulting and she starts shooting at him with her gun, which is filled with blanks.

When Mann has too much wine one day and leaves her mansion behind the wheel of her luxury car, she runs into a pole. At the hospital, Vale rushes in to find her mother sitting up in bed. She is not wearing her wig and is practically bald, with a very thin and short stubble. Besides being all right, she is in an argumentative mood.

"How would you like to have Lana Turner or Joan Crawford for a mother?" she asks.

Vale is amused. "Are my only choices Lana or Joan?" she asks, as she thinks it over.

After she does her mother's make-up and puts a scarf around her head, they walk out into the hallway to be greeted by the press and some of Mann's cheering fans.

Vale then sees Dr. Frankenthal, who attended her mother, and he asks if she will go out with him to a movie.

Despite her problems, Vale sees the funny side of her situation. "Sure," she replies, "we could go see Valley of the Dolls."

Postcards from the Edge gives a reasonable perspective of life behind the glamor, as the two powerful lead actresses explore their relationship as mother and daughter together. Vale admits to feeling inferior to her mother and explains how Mann's behavior effected her childhood, while Mann admits to feeling old and a bit jealous of her daughter's success.


  • Scenes were filmed with John Cusack playing one of Vale's friends in rehab that belonged to the Manson Family. His scenes were later cut.
  • Though the scene in the hospital room where Doris Mann is not wearing a wig shows her as practically bald, the fight scene during TV's These Old Broads, where Debbie Reynolds's wig is pulled from her head, makes it obvious that Reynolds actually has a full and lustrous head of hair.
  • The 1967 movie Valley of the Dolls, about actress' on drugs, marked one of Richard Dreyfuss's first movie roles.
  • Meryl Streep did her own singing. She was accompanied for "I'm Checkin' Out" by the band Blue Rodeo, a Canadian rock group.

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