(Michael Hoffman, USA, 1991)


Soapdish reminded me of Tootsie (1982), since it's also about the daily lives of soap stars on and off the set, and it has a climactic scene where real-life truth comes spilling out while the cameras roll.


And, also like Tootsie, it's a comedy of identity, sexual and particularly family identity – although on this level it comes to a rather more conservative conclusion than does Blake EdwardsSwitch (1991).


But Soapdish carries its themes quite lightly. Some of the advance word on the film has promised a wicked satire on the daytime soaps. But it picks very little on the programs, and not at all on soap viewers, which I found a relief. Basically, Soapdish is a bit of a carnival, a life's-like-that whirl. It revels in the way people swirl together in social interaction, bitching, performing, scheming, adapting, surviving. Despite vague plot moves to the contrary, no one really changes or grows, or looks inside themselves. They just keep on acting, pulling themselves together and putting on their mask again after they fall a teensy, humiliating bit.


Director Michael Hoffman assembles some wonderfully self-conscious performers to express this ethos of the world as a stage: Sally Field (who has rarely been cast this well), Kevin Kline, Robert Downey, Jr.


All up, Soapdish is a busy if unspectacular piece of comic whimsy.

© Adrian Martin October 1991

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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