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Posted October 1, 2010
Looses much of its charm on contemplation
This is one of those movies that seems reasonably enjoyable while you're watching it, but on reflection seems more pompous and manipulative in retrospect. It is based on a book by Carrie Fisher, who, I understand pretty much denied a frequent assumption that her book was essentially autobiographical. The main character, Suzanne Vale, played by Meryl Streep, is interpreted as Fisher herself under that persistent, however vehemently denied, autobiographical assumption. Meryl Streep is a bold actress willing to take chances. This movie can hardly be called one of the better payoffs of her chance-taking. On the surface it is a bittersweet and humorous account of the drug-rehab experiences of Suzanne (or whoever she represents). But on reflection, it's often seems more like Suzanne's vanity project than an honest focus on the tribulations of drug rehabilitation. Some characters seem in the story mainly to be trashed. One is a character, played by Annette Bening, who crosses paths with Suzanne. The main focus regarding that character is to caricature her as an airhead, with a tone of moral superiority on Suzanne's part. Bening's character is ridiculed, for example, for saying ''endolphins'' when she means ''endorphins''. Another more major character equally ridiculed is an erstwhile romantic interest of Suzanne's, played by Dennis Quaid. Suzanne's mother refers to this guy as ''your friend with bedroom eyes''. Suzanne responds with what would be, if it stood in its own right, a zany and apt satire of the whole concept of ''bedroom eyes''. But by later coming around to agreeing with her mother's admonition, she effectively refutes her own flippant comeback to the ''bedroom eyes'' assertion. In general the parts involving Suzanne's mother (played by Shirley MacLaine) may be somewhat more effective. Her mother is at first an effectively buffooned character. But when later Suzanne comes to respect her mom as a source of wisdom, there's no very smooth transition between the two stages. And somewhere along the way, Suzanne is excessively harsh in ridiculing her mother's reference to herself as ''middle-aged''.
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