Soap Dishing

THE MOVIE: "Soapdish."

THE SETUP: Soap opera star Celeste Talbert's (Sally Field) life unravels, on screen and off, when cast changes occur on her long-running daytime television series. An old flame, Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline), and an ingenue, Lori Cravean (Elisabeth Shue), are among the new arrivals.

THE LOOK: Over the top. Costume designer Nolan Miller has earned his stripes as a glitz meister of the highest order from his years creating costumes for "Dynasty," "The Love Boat" and "Charlie's Angels." Here he pokes fun not only at Hollywood glamour but also at his own legacy. His weapons are puff sleeves, organdy polka dots and pounds upon pounds of beads, including those sewn on Celeste's treacly evening gowns. Miller's coup is not so much in his cuts as in his colorations. You know Celeste is on the precipice of a nervous breakdown by the vibrating, nerve-rattling reds and yellows of everything she wears, including her furs, which are a scream. Miller says the colors make her look as if she's "working in hell." The same can be said for Jeffrey, whose tropical white and yellow suits suggest relentless heat and sun and somehow contribute to the high anxiety. In this context, the subtle taupe and gray suits worn by soap opera writer Rose Schwartz (Whoopi Goldberg) signal sanity. (Goldberg, by the way, has never looked better than in these man-tailored short suits.) A fashion nod also goes to the neckties--including a target design and another that looks like a fried egg--of producer David Barnes (Robert Downey Jr.). They're loopy enough to offset his conservative dark suits.

THE SOURCES: Miller did it all. He designed everything, including the fur coats and wild neckties. Even the extras in the award ceremony scenes wear vintage Miller. He said he pulled costumes from his "Dynasty," "Hotel" and other series stock to dress 300 extras.

THE PAYOFF: Considering that so few movies today incorporate original costume designs in contemporary stories and that most "costume designers" simply shop the department stores, "Soapdish" shows how powerful the art of costuming can be. It's a glamorous-looking spoof with a master at the sewing machine.

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