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Soapdish

Written by Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias) and Andrew Bergman ( the In-Laws, The Freshman), Soapdish (1991) — a dizzy screwball comedy about the machinations behind the scenes of a TV soap opera — is brisk, wicked, and very, very funny. Sally Field plays the Susan Lucci-like star of a daytime soap opera called "The Sun Also Sets," the sort of show that features convoluted plots involving murder trials, adultery, and rare medical conditions that cause one's head to explode if brain surgery isn't performed within the next five minutes. One of her co-stars, the predatory Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty), is conspiring against Field, keeping the show's young producer (Robert Downey Jr.) in a sexual froth to manipulate him into writing Field out of the show. Longtime head writer Rose Schwartz (Whoopi Goldberg) is Field's only ally, but even she can't keep Downey from resurrecting the character of Dr. Rod Randall played by Field's long-ago real-life love (Kevin Kline). When Field's niece (Elizabeth Shue) joins the cast, the farce dives into an overdrive mix of sex, lies, secrets and slapstick. Director Michael Hoffman manages to juggle four or five plots while keeping the proceedings meringue-light, and the actors all play their parts with the frenetic seriousness that this sort of comedy requires — it's rare when a film that looks like it was this much fun to make turns out to be enormously fun to watch, too. But it's the smaller set pieces that give Soapdish it's moments of comic brilliance: Kline's character performing "Death of a Salesman" in a Florida dinner theater for a crowd of near-deaf senior citizens; Field complaining about being dressed in a turban, shrieking, "I'm not Gloria fucking Swanson!"; Garry Marshall as the shameless network boss, telling his staff, "Ever since you took us to the Caribbean, it's been Jamaican homeless people sucking soup and a big wave outside that cost a hundred thousand dollars. That's depressing and it's expensive, two words I hate. You know the words I like? I like the word 'peppy' and the word 'cheap.' Peppy and cheap." Add big shoulder pads and huge, soap-opera hair, and Soapdish offers a vicious, knowing bite of network television. Paramount offers Soapdish in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) from a source print that is acceptable, if less than pristine. The clean, crisp audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Fluffy behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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