Soapdish is a comedy about the drama that goes down behind the scenes of a daytime soap opera. As someone who read Soap Opera Digest for years, I can attest that the drama offscreen can be more interesting than the fictional stuff that airs. In the movie, Celeste (Sally Field), the star of “The Sun Also Sets”, is at the center of the strife. There’s her newly resurrected love interest Jeffrey (Kevin Kline), aspiring actress niece Lori (Elizabeth Shue), villainous rival Montana (Cathy Moriarty), manipulative executive producer David (Robert Downey Jr.), and head writer/best friend Rose (Whoopi Goldberg). A lot of chaos goes down with this crew. Here are 10 of the funniest moments.
10. Soap opera awards
The movie kicks off at the soap opera awards where Celeste wins for best actress, much to her costars’ annoyance. In the clip package, we see her character Maggie confessing while in prison. “Yes, yes, yes! I’m am guilty. Guilty of love in the first degree.” Powerful. Sidenote, Celeste has won several awards. If this character was truly based on soap diva Susan Lucci, that’s kinda shady. And I like it.
Hunky men are a staple on soaps. On TSAS, Blair (Paul Johansson) plays the studly and very dense Bolt. During a love scene with Celeste, he drops his towel revealing his full… bolt. Celeste implores him to wear a swimsuit next time. Blair: “I can’t act in a swimsuit.” He’s a method actor.
8. Casting couch
Carrie Fisher has a small role as Betsy, the show’s horny casting director. We see her auditioning with a handsome actor. Banging Betsy lands him the part, so ultimately they both score.
7. No turbans
Celeste is having a bad day after getting dumped by her boyfriend via answering machine. It doesn’t help that Tawny (Kathy Najimy), the costume designer, has put her in a turban. “Could you please tell our new costume designer that I don’t feel quite right in a turban? What I feel like is GLORIA FUCKING SWANSON!!” Nobody wants to be dressed like a dead woman. Najimy only has few lines in the entire movie, but she does so much with just her facial expressions.
6. Dinner theater
After getting fired from the show decades earlier, Jeffrey was banished to the dinner theater circuit. A horrible existence. It’s hard to perform Death of a Salesman to an audience of elderly people who are uninterested, busy slurping their dinner, and on death’s door themselves.
Everything about Montana is extreme from her voice, to her look, to her reactions. She steals each scene she’s in as she tries to take the show from Celeste. Moriarty is so good in the role. She also bounces off of (or on top of) Downey well. You don’t know whether she’s going to screw him or kill him.
4. Celeste’s explanation
The big plot twist in the film occurs when Celeste reveals that her niece Lori is actually her daughter with Jeffrey. She got pregnant years ago, hid it from everyone, invented a twin sister she passed off as the mother, and then got Jeffrey fired because she felt he ruined her life. That’s incredibly soapy. Field expertly delivers this monologue. It’s worthy of a soap award and another Oscar.
3. Nervous breakdown
The family drama with Celeste, Jeffery, and Lori spills over onto the show. All three separately go to the head of the network, Edmund Edwards (the sharply funny Garry Marshall), and declare they can’t work like this. They’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown! It must be contagious. The rapid cutting between each character adds to the comedy here.
2. Live show
During the live show everything goes wrong. Either Jeffrey, Celeste, or Lori is going to be fired, but they won’t know the outcome until they read it from the teleprompter. Jeffery is blind as a bat, so he mispronounces all his lines. Except Kopfgeschlagen. Celeste goes off script when she realizes Lori is going to be killed off. She offers to die instead. This leads to prepping for an emergency brain surgery. In a restaurant. Lori breaks character and stops it all, reconciling with her parents. It’s a great convoluted mess.
1. “He doesn’t have a head!”
Death is easy to overcome in soaps since characters come back to life on a regular basis. But some things can’t easily be explained. Like how Jeffrey’s character Rod Randall is still alive after being decapitated onscreen. Or as Rose proclaims, “He doesn’t have a head! How am I supposed to write for a guy who doesn’t have a head?!” Nothing is funnier than Rose’s exasperation and yet she manages to write for him anyways. That’s talent.