BWW Review: POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE & How Carrie Fisher Turned Out the Lights
A couple weeks ago, Carrie Fisher shut off the lights at a Rise of Skywalker press conference. Someone asked about how Princess Leia would be integrated into the new movie, and JJ Abrams said something about loving Carrie Fisher and something else about lights, and then there were no more lights. It was a spectral technical malfunction, a prank from beyond the grave, something wholly natural in its unnaturalness. Carrie Fisher, who died three years ago on Friday, was indisputably in the room.
Last night, I watched Postcards from the Edge, Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical novel-turned-screenplay starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine. Credits rolled over Meryl belting her heart out and my dad called me on the phone - as he often does - with a "writing challenge."
He told me I should write a script for a "Leia" movie. That it should start after Return of the Jedi and be about Leia's training. Maybe it's a Han Solo-centered rom com. Maybe it's not. But it would be cool to get her story out there.
I should also mention that my dad didn't know I was watching Postcards from the Edge. What kind of coincidence? Maybe the same kind of coincidence that turned the lights off during that interview?! ?!?!?!
I wish I could say I knew Carrie Fisher personally, but I didn't. I know why she's important to me, personally, selfishly: my Hebrew name is Princess Leia, and my great aunt Connie who I loved very much used to sing with Carrie's father Eddie Fisher on the radio, and she's one of the only celebrities who's ever come out loud and proud about bipolar disorder. Her writing was raw and personal, hysterical and sad. She's the funniest person in When Harry Met Sally, one of my absolute favorite movies.
She's been my hero since before I could conceive of heroes. When you're little and a girl and you love movies, it's easy to pick out your favorite characters in Man Movies based on who's the girl one. But Leia is brave, honest, smart, funny, and probably more capable and dedicated than any man or droid or alien in those original movies. Even as a little kid, I could tell she was special. She was nobody's token anything.
This piece isn't exclusively about Princess Leia, but it kind of is. Carrie Fisher talked a lot in life about no longer being able to tell where Leia ended and she began. She was never publicly bitter about it - it was just a fact of a life that was already led in the shadow of her mondo-famous parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.
Carrie Fisher's whole career teaches us about the truth in fiction, and conflating Fisher with Leia is both a service and disservice to the beautiful, witty, complicated, talented woman she was.
There's a bit at the end of Postcards from the Edge where Gene Hackman talks to Meryl Streep about addiction and recovery - in this big, beautiful, well-rehearsed speech. They have this back-and-forth right after:
Carrie Fisher also once said that if her life weren't funny, it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.
Postcards from the Edge isn't an autobiography as much as it's a personal mythology. It confronts everything you might have assumed about Carrie Fisher's life and confirms you're right, sort of.
Watching now, it's eerie how well Carrie Fisher seemed to understand the narrative of herself. Meryl Streep's Suzanne goes through cycles of doing drugs and not doing drugs, of loving and being out of love, of acting at peak performance and losing jobs to her addiction. Shirley Maclaine worries at one point that she'll lose her daughter young, before her time.
In Roger Ebert's original review, he said he was disappointed the movie didn't have a clearer picture of recovery from addiction; essentially, that it wasn't hopeful enough. Watching it now, it's clear that Carrie Fisher knew her cycles, and presenting them as cycles and not conclusions was not inherently unhopeful.
For Carrie Fisher, life imitated art imitated life imitated art. It makes sense that a person whose life was cinema would make a nearly-true movie with an "uncinematic" ending.
On that note, here's what upset me about Leia in The Rise of Skywalker: Carrie Fisher was unabashedly, publicly herself - being anything else would have been too easy. Pre-recorded lines stitched together with the grace of something very ungraceful did no justice to the work she did as Princess Leia; not to her humor, not to her intelligence, not to the lines she made funnier by being her brilliant self (and editing George Lucas' scripts). Princess Leia died with Carrie Fisher, and the film should have reflected that.
Carrie Fisher knew herself. She knew what parts of herself she was willing to share, and what parts of herself were important to share. She knew the future, maybe. I never knew her, but I miss her every day of my life. That's impact - and that's why I think she turned the lights out when JJ Abrams was talking about her, and why I think she intervened with something in the cell tower system to make my dad call me about Princess Leia the second I finished watching Postcards. If anyone would want to set the record straight from some afterlife, it's her.
Carrie Frances Fisher was an American actress, screenwriter, author, producer, and speaker. She was known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films.
Fisher was also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show.
Fisher made her Broadway debut in 1973's musical "Irene," which starred her mother Debbie Reynolds. She also appeared in "Censored Scenes From King Kong," "Agnes of God," and "Wishful Drinking," which she also wrote. Fisher was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and won an Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Watch the trailer for Postcards from the Edge here: