WOW THIS WAS A VERY EMOTIONAL ONE AND THIS IS GONNA BE HARDER THAN I THOUGHT.
So, like the uneducated rube that I am, I did NOT know that "Postcards" was BASICALLY THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CARRIE FISHER. WHOM I LOVED & ADORED. WHAT A FEELS TRIP.
However, I ALSO DID NOT KNOW that 1) "Dingoes at my baby" was not just a funny thing people said in the 90s but was actually SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED, and 2) that it was basically the Amanda Knox scandal of Australia and a genuinely riveting and horrifying case.
I am consistently pleased with how the brackets have so far been working out. I did my best to match the dramas with dramas and comedies with comedies, but mostly picked them at random - little did I know that with some brackets, like this one, there would be some great thematic crossovers. If I had to name this bracket, it would be "BATTLE OF THE WRONGED WOMAN." Because truthfully, both of these stories are about seriously strong, seriously struggling women, played with serious skill by Meryl Goddamn Streep. Let's fucking begin.
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (1990)
Dir: Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Closer, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Angels in America, Heartburn, Silkwood)
Writers: Carrie Fisher!!!
Starring: Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman
Synopsis: "A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment."
Very Quick Recap:
- Meryl is a cokey actress, but still the darling of the set
- Gets yelled at on set (by director Gene Hackman). Mad AND disappointed. DON'T RUIN MY MOVIE, MERYL/CARRIE.
- Accidentally overdoses that night. Meryl/Carrie doesn't do well with pressure.
- YOUNG AND HUNKY DENNIS QUAID drops her off at the ER
- Wakes up in rehab
- Shirley MacLaine is an aging actress, steals the spotlight even in group therapy (which parents go to???). Like she's literally signing autographs when she goes to pick her up.
- Under the rules and regulations of THE PATRIARCHY, she has to live at home with parent supervision or she won’t be cast in her next movie; no directors will take a chance on her anymore because she's a "liability"
- Shirley throws Meryl a "welcome home" party from rehab? And then does one of her famous old dance numbers at it?? #inappropes
- Shirley/Debbie is an aging former screen-queen/stage mom, known for her juicy song & dance numbers. Meryl/Carrie obviously owes most of her fame and talent to her mother, but she's also low key the reason she does drugs. I mean, Shirley/Debbie's great, but she's the definition of #extra.
- The father/step-father is pretty much absent? Shirley/Debbie keeps talking about her "famous ex" (Burt Reynolds, obvs) and how she's never really recovered from the trauma of the scandal; he is why she drinks
- Meryl and Shirley fall right back into their high school roles: Meryl's trying to sneak out to see a boy, Shirley is putting too much pressure on her to be "just like her"
- Meryl does get to be in a new movie, but it’s a terrible buddy cop joint (with some iconic green screen moments) that pretty much just humiliates her. Plus, every one on set keeps gossiping about what an ungrateful wreck she is, and VERY UNNECESSARILY CALLING HER FAT. Poor Meryl/Carrie :(
- Dennis finds her on set and WOOS HER HARDCORE, tells her she "smells like Catalina" and "looks like the future"????
- Then, of course, despite an Oscar worthy monologue about how he's "not like other guys", of course, we find out he’s been fucking erry body. OF COURSE.
- BEST LINE AWARD GOES TO the whole scene of her dumping Dennis at his house. Seriously, do yourself a favor and just go watch the entire scene, it's a fucking BANGER. And ends with Meryl shooting her prop gun at Dennis out the window. #ICONIC
- Before Meryl went to the film set that day, her and Shirley got into an epically big fight. Meryl called her out on her drinking, and Shirley called her out on being a spoiled, self-destructive brat. It was brutal.
- Then, after a terrible day on set (and finding out her new BF is a fuckboi), she dumps Dennis, heads home, and doesn't even get halfway there before finding Shirley has driven drunk into a tree. Meryl is having a very bad day.
- Meryl races to the hospital, finds Shirley all vulnerable and sad - ROLE REVERSAL - and they have a cheesy but very much earned make-up scene.
- Meryl gets hit on by the doctor who pumped her stomach, weird but cute? “Might marry him just for the story,” lol.
- Meryl has a very lovely scene with Gene Hackman, doing some ADR (additional digital recording) to make up for the line she fudged when she was high as a kite on set before her over dose.
Gene: How are you?
Meryl: Better. And worse. How do I look?
Gene: Better. And worse.
Meryl: Better because I'm sober?
Gene: And worse because you're sober.
- They clearly have a well-established, somewhat paternal relationship, and while they're watching her footage he gives the heart-wrenching line: "Look at yourself. You probably don't even remember that day. Look at how good you are! And imagine how much better you'd be if you actually tried??"
- Gene promises to put her in his new movie even though she's a risk because HE BELIEVES IN HER (sob), and we end our story with Meryl singing a song on his set, Debbie watching proudly from the sidelines where she should. Until the end, of course, when she hops up onstage for some irresistible (but totally adorable) applause.
- Meryl gets hit on by the doctor who pumped her stomach, weird but cute? “Might marry him just for the story." You would, Carrie. God I miss you.
- Meryl sings a song in Gene Hackman’s new movie that he wants to do with her even though she’s a risk, aww
I could obviously talk about "Postcards" and my love for it forever, but we still have one more movie in this bracket, and I ALSO HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THIS ONE.
A Cry In The Dark (1988)
Dir: Fred Schepisi
Wri: John Bryson (novel), Robert Caswell (screenplay)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Sam Neill
Synopsis: "A mother whose child was killed in a dingo attack in the Australian Outback fights to prove her innocence when she is accused of murder."
Up until my research for Meryl Madness, my knowledge of this (TRUE!) story was based on:
1) Elaine on Seinfeld
2) Paris Jackson getting into shit for posting a meme about it on Twitter
3) Seth Green's band on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
So this is all actually based on a REAL GODDAMN WOMAN, Lindy Chamberlain. I think I yelled out "UGH AMANDA KNOX" at least a dozen or more times while watching, because it's basically the same goddamn story. Real quick recap:
- Meryl, her husband Sam Neill, her two sons (4 and 6), and her 7 WEEK OLD BABY go on a family vacation to that big famous (?) rock in Australia
- They are all chilling at this campsite with a bunch of people, and there are dingoes kind of running around the BBQ pit getting scraps. They are mostly adorable and seem very domesticated and harmless.
- Meryl goes to put her baby, Azaria, to sleep in the tent. She is gone about 5 minutes, then comes back and starts feeding her 4 year old. Meryl and Sam are chatting with some new friends when Sam hears the baby cry and tells Meryl to go check on her.
- Meryl goes back to the tent and sees A FUCKING DINGO HAS HIS HEAD IN THE TENT. The dingo kind of shakes his head, Meryl yells at it and kicks it away, and it goes running off into the dark. She goes to zip the tent shut (it was only zipped about halfway) and pokes her head in to check on the baby.
- BABY IS FUCKING GONE OH NO
- Everybody on the campsite is literally running into the goddamn dark looking for a dingo and a baby but it's 1982 and there are no fucking lights around this stupid campsite
- Hours pass. My stomach is in knots. The worst possible feeling in the world.
- Sam is a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and is just a *little* bit too chill about the fact his baby is FUCKING DEAD and just like loudly prays??
- The campsite rangers put Meryl & family in a motel to wait until morning. Nothing is found. They go home with no baby :(
- Back at home, they are bombarded by cops and coroners and more camp rangers... and then the news reporters, magazine writers, fucking talk show hosts
- Meryl becomes fucking sensationalized overnight. Movie did a great job showing all these intercuts of random people watching her on TV and giving their loud and ignorant opinions on what "really happened."
- Meryl and Sam give a brief interview on the news. Once again, Sam is a bit too calm and comes across as pretty arrogant - "we believe this must have been God's will". Meryl is just totally shut down emotionally, and gives zero facial expressions. Who can blame her? Her baby just fucking WENT MISSING AND WAS PROBABLY EATEN BY A GODDAMN DINGO.
- Rumors start flying. Meryl is approached by a magazine writer for Women's Magazine or something, and the woman totally implores Meryl's motherhood and is like "let me write something for you so that no one ever has to experience this pain again; let's give your baby's death meaning" and then the dumb bitch writes a fucking monster piece on how Meryl probably killed her OWN BABY??
- The police finally find the baby's missing clothes, but there are no bite or tear marks in it, so Meryl ends up having to GO ON TRIAL FOR THE MURDER OF HER BABY
- AND THEY THINK SHE KILLED THE BABY BY CUTTING OFF HER HEAD WITH TINY NAIL SCISSORS?
- The public shits its pants, and they start getting swarmed by paparazzi every time they leave their own house or go into court
- AND THE TRIALS GO ONE FOR TWO YEARS
- The trial is SO GODDAMN BRUTAL. Besides the obvious fucking horror of losing an infant in a horrifically violent way, AND getting potentially blamed for it, Meryl then has to TALK ABOUT IT IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL OVER AND OVER.
- THEY LITERALLY HAND AROUND THE BABY'S BLOODY CLOTHES IN THE COURTHOUSE. Everything I know about the law I learned from CSI and 24, but isn't that tampering with evidence????
- They also did a fucking experiment at a zoo by throwing a baby doll into the dingo pit and FILMING WHAT THE DINGOES DID TO THE DOLL to see if it "matched the blood stains on the clothes" and they MAKE MERYL WATCH THE WHOLE VIDEO.
- The whole time the forensic scientists say none of it makes sense because there is no "dingo saliva" on anything, and Meryl's like yeah probably because the baby was wearing a jacket, but they can't find the jacket
- Meryl starts realizing that she's probably going to prison and decides now is a good time to get pregnant, so that she can give Sam another baby before she goes to prison for fucking ever FOR A CRIME SHE DID NOT COMMIT
- This dumb fucking bitch scientist takes all these samples from Sam and Meryl's car and finds "AMPLE EVIDENCE OF FETAL BLOOD ALL OVER THE CAR" thus "PROVING" that they killed their baby and stuffed her body in the car
- They end up discovering that those samples test positive not just for fetal blood, but also for JUST REGULAR GODDAMN BLOOD and also RUST?????? So basically it could have been anything???????? But somehow Meryl is still guilty????????
- SHE GOES TO PRISON OH MY GOD
- FOR THREE FUCKING YEARS
- HAS THE BABY IN PRISON
- IS STILL IN PRISON
- THREE FUCKING YEARS LATER some asshole fall off the Big Australian Rock Thing and when his body is found, they ALSO FIND THE MISSING BABY JACKET
- IT HAS DINGO SALIVA ON IT
- MERYL IS EXONERATED
- THANK GOD
- THE END
So I should confess I DESPISE Sam Neill (read his daughter Tatum's autobiography "Paper Moon" and you'll understand why). But like all things (except INTO THE FUCKING WOODS), regardless of cast, budget, or script, Meryl is able to carry an entire movie on her shoulders. This was a new side of her: totally deadpan, only ever showing her emotions in small and pained expressions. She has an outburst or two, but mostly keeps her shit together. And that's why the public hated her!!! So unfair!!! She was literally just despised and hated because she WASN'T EMOTIONAL ENOUGH???!?! Seriously. Women cannot win. Meryl's performance was exceptional, and her accent seemed pretty goddamn authentic too. ALSO IT'S ALL A REAL STORY. Which is brutal and makes it hurt to watch her all the more.
So, an age old acting question: is it harder to portray a character that is closer to who you are in real life, or totally opposite? Of course it depends on what that character has to do, but I've usually leaned more towards the camp of "it's harder to play someone a lot like you." For example, as much as I admire and respect the role that Harvey Milk played in LGBTQ history, I'm still salty that Sean Penn won an Oscar for his portrayal of him over Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler," because it was so clearly such an autobiographical character for Rourke (also, fuck Sean Penn as a person). That being said...
Meryl Streep's performance of (basically) Carrie Fisher was unlike anything I've ever seen her do before or since. We know at this point in her career that Meryl can take on any accent under the sun, but usually when she's really "putting on" a character, she transitions to her higher register, speaking in a softer, slower, more girlish tone. "Postcards" was the exact opposite: her voice went deeper, she spoke much faster, and - for lack of a better phrase - she totally embodied Big Dick Energy. She was sexy and powerful and feminine and vulnerable and messy and unapologetic. She fucking WAS Carrie Fisher.
This wasn't as easy of a decision as I thought it would be. But ultimately, the winner is...
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE