screen gems

‘Soapdish’ is getting the revival treatment. Time to reassess the OG.


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 QuestNoises Off or even Death Becomes HerSoapdish 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.

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