Soapdish (1991)

soapdish

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Comedy style soap opera.

Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty) is an ambitious actress playing a supporting role on a popular daytime soap opera. She wants to move up the casting ladder, but realizes that the show’s popular long-time leading Lady Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) must go first. She fakes having an interest in David Seaton Barnes (Robert Downey Jr.) who is the show’s producer as a way to manipulate him to get Celeste off the show or do things to hurt her popularity and yet everything that they try ends up backfiring.

Although soap operas have been parodied hundreds of times before this one is genuinely funny all the way through. It hits all the right targets and has some sharp dialogue. The characters manage to successfully toe the uncomfortable line between being caricatures and real people. Celeste in particular despite being insecure and straddled with all the afflictions of a big time star is still quite likable.

The scene where the Kevin Kline character performs in the play ‘Death of a Salesman’ at a rundown dinner theater and cleans up a customer’s spilled drink while remaining in the Willy Loman character is hilarious. The ending sequence where Kline’s character tries reading the teleprompter without the benefit of his glasses and the performance of a brain transplant operation inside a restaurant is also quite funny.

Field overall is quite good in the lead and it is nice seeing her back to doing comedy as she has a certain frantic affinity for it. The only thing that annoyed me about her performance was her crying which went on too long and sounded phony while never once shedding any tear. I also thought it was strange that the character complains about having to wear a turban on her head during a scene in the show and then later on she is seen wearing one in real life. There is also another part where the character faints and falls backwards. This is something that is quite prevalent in a lot of movies and TV-shows and I don’t know why or what started it, but in reality when people faint they fall forward not backwards.

Whoopi Goldberg is effective as the soap’s head writer. The role suites her talents best because it uses her more as a common sense anchor to the zaniness around her. Elisabeth Shue is engaging as a young woman who tries anything to break into the business. Her young attractive and innocent looking face is perfect for the part and she ends up holding her own quite well with the veteran cast.

Gary Marshall again makes the most of his small bit part and this guy is so good in cameo roles that I feel he should spend more time in front of the camera instead of behind it. Attractive TV reporter Leeza Gibbons, Teri Hatcher, Carrie Fisher, and Ben Stein can also be spotted in bit roles.

Out of the entire cast the only one that I didn’t care for was Moriarty who seemed too one-dimensional and although she was supposedly playing a young woman in her twenties she came off looking a lot older.

I only have a few complaints with this one and the biggest one being the fact that it has the show broadcast live even though soap operas ceased doing that in the early 60’s and had been shown on tape for the past four decades and yet the live broadcast is very crucial to the plot, which creates a loophole. Soap operas have also decreased significantly in popularity since the release of this film, which makes the movie appear dated. I also didn’t care of the musical score, which resembled dance music at a Latin bar and didn’t fit the theme at all. Even with these shortcomings the film is still funny enough to overcome them and is quality viewing for those looking for a good laugh.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 31, 1991

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Michael Hoffman

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

One response to “Soapdish (1991)

  1. Only sporadically funny though Field is very good.

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