Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Problematic: Soapdish
What a delicious, hilarious movie, and what a bitter pill to swallow.
Soapdish flew somewhat under the radar following its release in 1991. The screwball comedy–a send-up of both popular soap opera tropes and their production–did respectable box office and earned mostly positive reviews. Leave it to the queers to help the movie find new life as a camp classic thanks to a script loaded with bitchy zingers, and to a hard-working cast of comic talents.
The plot: a failing, long-running soap opera titled The Sun Also Sets is going through creative upheaval. Supporting actress Montana Moorehead (Kathy Moriarty) has her sights set on the lead spot, currently occupied by longtime star Celeste Talbert (Sally Field). Montana, aided by producer David Barnes (Robert Downey, Jr.) plots to ruin Celeste’s character in the eyes of the audience over the objections of Rose (Whoopi Goldberg), the show’s head writer. Montana and David also plot to unnerve Celeste by bringing her one-time on and off camera lover Jeffrey (Kevin Kline) back to the show. Can the actors–or the show–possibly survive this flare of egos?
Much like Galaxy Quest, Noises Off or even Death Becomes Her, Soapdish turns backstage Hollywood antics into wild comedy thanks to a sharp script and a remarkable cast. In addition to the aforementioned, Elizabeth Shue, Teri Hatcher, Garry Marshall, Kathy Najimy, and Carrie Fisher also star, the latter as a libidinous casting director. Though Field and Kline have reputations as great dramatic actors, the two also have considerable comedic chops, with Field’s boozy Susan Lucci-type a particular riot. No wonder the movie has such a strong cult following after 30 years, and no wonder Paramount+ has opted to revive it as a sitcom, with Goldberg already announced to return to her role. We hope to see a few more familiar faces as well…[looks at Sally Field]
The downside? A final act twist involving a transgender character makes the movie show its age. What seemed like a low blow in 1991 comes off downright infuriating now, with characters cringing and gagging at the revelation. Transpeople deserve better respect than this; here’s hoping the new show at least makes an effort to address this sour attempt at humor.
Still, dated, insensitive jokes aside, Soapdish has a lot going for it. This kind of slapstick is enormously difficult to pull off well, and director Michael Hoffman does an admirable job of keeping the plot–and banter–moving at a rapid-fire pace. Pour a drink, grab some popcorn and get ready to yell back to the screen. This is one heck of a funny movie.
Streams on Paramount+, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.
alter the film/update to make to make Montana, formerly Munira, a really really ugly duckling
Digitally swap out the year book picture/name and name on marquee at end.
They never say the T word, it’s all inference.
Absolutely hysterical movie with so many funny moments. Perhaps my favorite is when Elizabeth Shue accuses Kevin Kline and Sally Field of having the morals of guinea pigs, and the camera cuts to Whoopi Goldberg briefly giving a nod like, Yeah, you know, you’re right.
its a little dated…
its overall hilarious !
different times now, different results…we All admit that,,,,,,,
but based on the content alone its a great movie….just laugh you ass off
with all the other shit going on in the world, just sit back and enjoy…..
A woke update is sure to guarantee a short lived series. Just look at how that’s going for And Just Like That. The original Soap Dish is just fine.