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Mike Nichols lends some comic structure to Carrie Fisher's best-selling confessional novel concerning a woman's struggles with drug addiction and mother-daughter rivalry (subjects Fisher admits to understanding all too well).
Meryl Streep, in her most full-blown comic performance up to that point, plays Suzanne Vale, a popular movie actress well on her way to a Hollywood crack-up. Suzanne suffers from blackouts and memory lapses, and awakens in the beds of men she doesn't remember; she is a barely-functioning wreck on the set of her latest movie.
When a coke dealer who delivers stops by her dressing room between takes, she swiftly finds herself being rushed to the hospital, suffering the effects of a narcotics bender.
While in detox, Suzanne attempts to piece her life and career back together, but her confidence is shattered when her mother arrives at the rehab clinic -- Doris Mann, a famed film icon from the 1950s and 1960s (Shirley MacLaine). Doris is soon soaking up the adulation and applause of Suzanne's fellow recovering drug addicts.
Upon Suzanne's release, she must compete with her mother for attention and fame as she tries to walk a thin line as a recovering drug abuser.