Cathy Moriarty in Soapdish - Supporting Actress Snapshot

The character of Montana Moorehead in Soapdish -- the oddly off-pitch 1991 spoof of television soap operas -- has to be one of the coolest examples of pure camp genius sneaking into a mainstream pic. And off at the edges, Cathy Moriarty just does Ms. Montana (over the top, into the ground, up to the heavens) in a way that probably no other actress ever could. Moriarty's Montana is, all at once, an apparently "talent-free" soap actress, a vicious manipulative schemer, and an enigmatic erotic powerhouse with -- ahem -- a bit of a secret. As Moriarty's Montana bullies Robert Downey Jr. into delighted erotic submission while also plotting her misguided career-vaunting revenge, Moriarity uses her tough girl persona to assure one and all that Montana's got the biggest balls of any bitch on the set. Which'd be fun enough in any case, but this bitch's got a little something extra -- making for a high-farce character joke that really pays off. Loads. Indeed, in a film just crammed (almost to a one) with folks who were or would soon become some of Oscar's and Emmy's favorites, Moriarty's performance as Montana Moorehead stands out as the only truly great turn in the bunch. Somehow, Moriarty's Montana maintains all the edges, keeping things just close enough to a truly human horror while never becoming mean-spirited. It's a smart, savagely funny and surprisingly humane performance of an almost lethally tricky role. As a result, every time Lu gets caught in the bizarrely entrancing vortex of this film, the potentially humiliating narrative twists that befall Moriarty's Montana inspire StinkyLulu's empathy, curiosity and fascination all the more.... And, while few movies deserve a sequel less than Soapdish, if 'twere "The Montana Moorehead Story starring Cathy Moriarty"? Well, that'd be a ticket worth stealing.
--Special thanks to My New Plaid Pants for the inspiration.


Pete said...

I have brake fluid...bran flavor....brain fever.

Haven't seen this movie in years, but you're spot on about her.

Catherine Cantieri said...

I love this movie, in no small part for its production design and campy credits. And you're absolutely right about Cathy Moriarty. I think her genius is ably assisted by Robert Downey Jr.'s maddening calm.

"When I was a child, I wore too much make-up and everyone thought I was evil!"

"Now, why can't I write shit like that?"

Scott said...

I love that you wrote this post. I mean who remembers this movie? But I guess a few of us do - and Moriarty's Montana really is one of the funniest performances I've ever seen - ever!

And I completely concur with the previous comment - while Moriarty steals this movie and does perhaps the best job of being both wildly campy and wildly funny that I've ever seen, Downey completely holds his own with her, and his performance is key to making hers work. Both are superb.

StinkyLulu said...

I absolutely concur with the Downey love here. This film came at the height of my yet-enduring crush on him, when he was doing all those doddery manboy parts. He has a real gift for light comedy (that his notoriety/persona has irretrievably darkened) and nowhere is it as evident as it is in Soapdish.


great new feature!

I love this performance too. And I don't love much else about the movie and i haven't thought of it in years but Moriarty delighted me at the time (I third the Downey Jr. crush).

the only other moment I remember quite fondly is Sally Field's über cliché but still hilarious swift moodshifts for adoring autograph seeking fans.