24 September 2009
7! 7! 7! "On guard, bitch!"
Robert Zemeckis' Death Becomes Her is not a perfect movie, but it is absolutely one of my favourites. How can one have a top ten list of favourite movies without including Meryl Streep? There is no other actress with her talent or body of work. Streep has been in fantastic films (Kramer vs Kramer, Manhattan, Silkwood) and in less spectacular films (The River Wild, Adaptation, Postcards from the Edge) and yet in every single one of her films she gives a performance that would be a career achievement by any other actress. Death Becomes Her is a movie from my childhood. It brings back memories of being 10 years old and seeing this film. It is hard to believe that Goldie Hawn has not been in a single decent film since it was released in 1992. The only other above average film that Bruce Willis has been in is Pulp Fiction, which thankfully features him in a minor supporting role. Imagine that after this film was released Zemeckis went and directed the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump.
Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn) have always been competitive with each other. Their friendship was ruined when Madeline stole Helen's finance Ernest (Bruce Willis) and Helen turns to food. Then we fast forward to the present: Madeline is a struggling actress whose looks are fading, Ernest is a drunk and bitter husband, and Helen has overcame her obesity and the author of a best-selling book. Helen has devised a plan to finally get her revenge on Madeline and be reunited with Ernest. Madeline, frustrated by her aging body, turns to Lisle (Isabella Rossellini), a mysterious woman who grants Madeline the gift of eternal beauty, with the only stipulation that she remove herself from the public eye. Immediately after drinking the potion, Madeline sees her body returning to its former glory. At home, after a fight with Ernest, Madeline finds herself at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck... which should have killed her. Ernest, believing that Madeline is dead, calls Helen to celebrate, only to find that Madeline is not actually dead. From here, we see how similar Madeline and Helen are, and how far they will go to get what they want.
Death Becomes Her is a smart and frivolous black comedy about society's obsession with beauty. The film may never really hit any of the key issues, but it does negatively depict the endless quest for beauty and cosmetic surgery. It is definitely not Meryl Streep's finest performance, but it does prove that she has a knack for comedy. This film can also be remembered for its use of special effects. One of the film's most memorable scenes includes a hilarious fight scene between Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn just before the characters' darkest secrets are revealed. This film will not touch you on an emotional level, and it does not necessarily need to, it is sheer, enjoyable fun.