Hilarious '90s soap opera spoof; sexual innuendo, cursing.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Soapdish, released in 1991, is a send-up of television's daytime dramas ("soap operas"), with an outstanding cast of solid comic actors, broad slapstick story elements, and loving comic attention paid to the personal lives of the show's characters that make their fictional personalities seem tame in comparison. Abounding in intrigue, romance, show biz insincerity and boorishness, along with outrageous revelations about past indiscretions and youthful mistakes, the story moves from one outrageous character and/or situation to another in short order. Comic flirtations, seductions, and large bosoms mean that farcical sexuality is a constant thread, hovering just beneath the surface of the story. That is, when those flirtations, seductions, et al, are not right up on the screen. Occasional sexual jokes ("Can I touch your breasts?"), cursing and profanity are heard: "s--t," "bitch," "hooters," "peeing," "t-ts," one each use of "f--k," and "coloreds." Spoiler alert: reference is made to a transgender female. A leading character gets drunk in one scene; another uses alcohol to dull a disappointment. Characters smoke cigarettes. Far from mean-spirited, all the players seem to relish the chance to play big, exaggerated show biz types, and they appear to be having as much fun as their prospective audiences. Teens and up.
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What's the Story?
One can only feel sympathy for Celeste Talbert (Sally Field), the put-upon star of "The Sun Also Sets," a soap opera with sagging ratings in SOAPDISH. Celeste's live-in boyfriend has left her with only a message on her answering machine. There's a conspiracy against her promoted by her by a jealous co-star, Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty) and the show's producer (Robert Downey, Jr.), who desperately wants to bed Montana. And, part of their evil plan involves bringing Celeste's old paramour and leading man back to the show, a man whom she loved and hated with equal passion. Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline), whose career has fallen like a rock, is thrilled to come back, not only for the decent role, but to get revenge on the woman he feels has destroyed his career. Enter Celeste's niece, Lori (Elisabeth Shue), who has left college to join her aunt in NYC and become an actress. When Jeffrey begins a flirtation with Lori, who has been given a tiny role on the show, Celeste is apoplectic. Soon aware of the conspiracy against her, the treachery of Jeffrey, and constant efforts by the crew to "age" her relentlessly, it's only a matter of time before Celeste risks all, dredges up long-hidden secrets, and reveals the true heart of the woman who was once called America's sweetheart.
Is It Any Good?
Sally Field, in a vanity-free performance, hits all the right notes and takes a profusion of fine actors along for the ride in this show biz farce that holds up after decades. Subtlety is not the goal here. Actors chew scenery with delight in Soapdish. Costumes, makeup, and set design don't get any broader. The pace is brisk; the dialogue is crisp and features cultural references that still hit the mark for older viewers. Younger ones, even those without a fan's passion for the passion that rages in daytime drama, will still get the jokes, and find the send-up of show biz types as relevant as ever. Whoopi Goldberg is the only reality-based character, and she's the touchstone that gives all the other comedic roles someone to play against. While there's occasional swearing, sexual innuendo and flirtations, even a hero on a drunken binge and a plot point that involves (spoiler alert) a transgender character, circa 1991, there's a wholesome quality to the fun, and it's never mean-spirited.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the many stereotypes in Soapdish. Are stereotypes more acceptable when the main purpose is humor and they are presented in a satire or spoof?
Do you think it's necessary to be a soap opera fan to enjoy this film? What is there about the characterizations and situations that make them relatable to general audiences?
Sally Field gives a performance that can be described in movie terms as "without vanity." What does this mean? In what ways was Field willing to show the silliest and most vulnerable sides of her character? List some actors you like who make the most of vanity-free performances. What part does that play in their popularity?
- In theaters: January 1, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2017
- Cast: Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr.
- Director: Michael Hoffman
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Last updated: March 1, 2023
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