Hello and welcome to a very special edition of Buried Credits we have dubbed “Star Wars Month”! For three weeks in January we will be exploring the films of the three main actors of the original Star Wars trilogy! Buried Credits is a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits. This weeks actor…
For the second week of Star Wars Month we are covering the lesser known and forgotten films of Carrie Fisher. Unlike Mark Hamill, Fisher has a much smaller filmography, though a good chunk of that is because she didn’t have a huge voice acting role like Hamill did as the Joker. However, her career would see her acting in bigger pictures such as The Blues Brothers and When Harry Met Sally, while in the late 80s she published Postcards from the Edge, a semi-autobiographical novel that focuses on her relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds and her drug addiction in the 70s. Additionally, she had three other novels and four non-fictions books published, including: Wishful Drinking, Shockaholic, and – very recently – The Princess Diarist, a series of journal entries that she had written back when she was younger filming Star Wars.
In addition to writing books, she also also penned three screenplays, including one for an adaptation of Postcards from the Edge in 1990, which starred Meryl Streep as the main character. But in addition to her artistry she was also a strong advocate for destigmatizing mental health, and she was incredibly open when discussing her drug addiction bipolar disorder – and she was an unapologetic stand-up queen when doing so.
This week I’m proud and honored – and a bit sad as she has left this world far too soon – to watch film’s of Carrie Fisher and discuss her acting talent. Let’s jump right in now with my first pick…
The ‘Burbs (1989)
We’ve all seen the movies and TV show episodes about the weird neighbors that move in next door. Sometimes they end up nice, sometimes they’re mean, but never have they been this weird. The ‘Burbs is a film directed by underrated genre filmmaker Joe Dante, written by Dana Olsen. about the new neighbors who move into a stereotypical white suburban neighborhood. Everyone treats each other nicely – except when a dog poops on someone else’s lawn – and everyone keeps their yard neat and tidy. That is except for the Klopeks. Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) is home from work on vacation when our story starts, and his boredom is occupied by his curiosity with the Klopeks, who live just next door to him. When they don’t take care of their house and yard – on top of the really loud, strange noises heard from their basement in the middle of the night – Ray becomes convinced that something isn’t quite right.
The ‘Burbs is a film about the idea of normality and how skewed that idea can become just because you aren’t used to something new: whether this pertains to racism or just the oddity of human beings in general who might not represent our idea of normal. These weird as hell characters can only be portrayed but such an all star cast as the weird veteran Lt. Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern), the weird, nutty, snoopy neighbor Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun), the young man who enjoys watching his neighbors crazy antics more than television, Ricky Butler (Corey Feldman), and one of the only sensible people in the neighborhood: Ray’s wife, Carol, played by Carrie Fisher. The Klopeks are played by a wonderful cast: Hans Klopek (Courtney Gains), Reuben Klopek (Brother Theodore), and Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson), and as we get to know these seemingly odd neighbors, we realize that the “normal” neighbors demonstrate their own bizarre behavior.
As a whole, The ‘Burbs is ridiculously fun and absurd, not to mention a social deconstruction of middle class America. Just because everyone keeps their house painted and yard clean doesn’t necessarily mean they’re decent people after all. In reality they can be the exact opposite – judgemental, hypocritical and ‘not normal – and The ‘Burbs raises the question of how well do we truly know our neighbors? As the film progresses, the paranoia of the ‘normal folks becomes more invasive and strange. They demonstrate inherent racism over “new foreign neighbors with funny names, weird faces, and odd accents,” culminating a wonderful rant from Ray about how racism and paranoia has ruined their small neighborhood. But the scenes following Ray’s self-realization dilute the anti-racist message up until then when it turns out he was right to judge his neighbors after all; this could be interpreted as inherent racism within the film itself.
But the movie is fun and entertaining, though the underlying racism I interpreted was a problem for me. That said, the acting is phenomenal across the board, as is to be expected from such a great cast. The standout is probably Bruce Dern’s portrayal of the wacky war veteran,Mark. Henry Gibson is also equally as wonderful as the head of the Klopek household, giving us enough weird and creepy vibes, coupled with niceties, to question whether or not he really is evil. Another great thing about the film, like most of Dante’s films, is the cinematography and set-pieces – it everything looks gorgeous and homely. The props in every household give us an insight into the type of people who live there, which enhances their character’s.
Carrie Fisher’s role in The ‘Burbs is, sadly, minimal. She’s under-utilized in the role of that of a basic suburban housewife, but despite not having a meaty role, she plays her part well and her character is the most grounded in the film and a perfect counterbalance to her husband’s hyperbole. The only downside to her performance is that she’s just not given anything to work with for the most part.
Honestly, The ‘Burbs is hard for me to really rate. Despite its wonderful cast, gorgeous set-pieces, and fun humor and characters, the underlying racism makes it hard for me to love. I can chalk it up to being dated and a product of its time period, but that doesn’t make me dislike it any less than I already do. It is still a fun pieces of cinema and definitely worth watching, but it’s not for everyone for sure. If you’re going into it for Carrie Fisher, it’s not necessarily worth it either. She’s barely given a substantial part in the film and even when she does she’s not really given a lot to work with. Overall, while it is fun and weird, it’s just not that great.