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Death Becomes Her (1992)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis Written by David Koepp & Martin Donovan

  While Bruce Willis may undoubtedly be known for his oh so awesome action flicks, I rather enjoy him a great deal more in a comedic sense. Knowing I may be one of few but I have other “preferred” Action Actors. Goldie Hawn surly not stacking up against her co-stars with only 32 titles under her name and haven’t being in a film since ’02s unfortunate debacle, The Banger Sisters. While I did enjoy the film she did right after this (The First Wives Club) it seemed that was as good as it got for the time being. Meryl Streep easily entertaining no matter what genre appearing in but having been in another hilarious role prior against Roseanne Barr in 89’s She-Devil. But the opportunity for each Actor to show their audiences another side of them seemed perfect timing for the three, each giving their roles such justice. Joined with a smart script, never done before technology (at the time) and a world where appearance was everything; Self-loathing never looked so good.

Longtime “friends” Madeline Ashton (Streep) and Helen Sharp (Hawn) have maintained some semblance of a relationship, having known each through their adolescence. Keeping in touch why, I’m not sure, as it is very clear the two women cannot stand the other. Helen, believing her to be nothing but cheap trash and a bad actress, seemed to gather one thing Madeline was good at. Stealing the hearts of every boyfriend had and treating them like trash, oh you silly boys. We see Helen attend a show starring her old friend, a hidden “final test” for fiance Ernest Menville (Willis). Having harbored a secret of being a fan of Ashtons, he’s enamored from the first sight of her and refuses to let go. The two exchange vows soon after. Seven years go by and 200 lbs later we see a new Helen emerge. One who has put the term “Cat Lady” to shame and gets thrills from watching old movies where Madeline’s character was strangled as she repeated the scene. After getting dragged by police out of her apartment getting sent to therapy and having a breakthrough upon hearing something the Doctor stated; another seven years go by.

We follow the maid up the stairs (loved how she huffed due to the extravagant staircase) in a lavish Mansion to awaken the now, not so happy couple. Madeline insisting on being told each day of how much younger she was looking. Dr. Menville having fallen asleep yet again while working, in a great re-introduction of his character in the film. As the maid enters and hovers over him, he wakes to ask if an angel was before him; instantly throwing out the garnish and drinking the Bloody Mary. Having gotten an invitation for the release of Helen’s new book, “Forever Young” Madeline couldn’t wait to see what bad shape her old friend was no doubt still in. Mistaking someone else for her, the way is cleared and we see the new and improved Helen, in the best shape at the ripe age of 50! After introductions, she works her way into both Ernest and Madeline’s train of thought of the other being to blame for their troubled past. While Madeline doers happen to hear this conversation behind her back, unaware of another conversation between Helen and Ernest that night of a plan involving drugging his wife and an elaborate concept of making the entire thing appear as “just another drunk driver.”

Madeline is unable to handle the deterioration that life so cruelly hands us and catches recent boyfriend Dakota (Adam Storke) with another girl in his house; it was just not her day. Going under the knife being out of the question until she’s handed a lifeline of which was an exclusive club, only for the very privileged. Lisle Von Rhuman (Isabella Rossellini) having the secret of eternal youth, for a hefty price of…Well, whats the highest amount of money you wouldn’t miss? However Helen is persistent to see her revenge carried through and while checking up on Ernest, sees what appears to be him dragging her inside the house. Why would he be doing that you ask? Oh, well because right after taking the potion they begin fighting and Ernest’s balls decide to grow as he ever so gently pushes her down the stairs. (This clip sets-up for the quote that I used)

  Expecting to find Madeline sprawled out in who knows what manner, catches Ernest covered in paint and his mind having run rapid  Demanding to see the body at once, shocked to see her supposed dead friend interrupting and wanting to know what else the two had been planning together. Walking through the house and coming back with a shotgun, blowing right through Helen’s stomach with very little hesitation. Of course we know she can’t die so when she emerges from the outside fountain and after the two fight it out, decide they would have to make-up to take care of one another (No pun intended). Laughing at where life had brought them, stuck with one another though wanting nothing more than to disperse. Unfortunately their bodies have some tough times ahead of them and ends at Ernest’s funeral as the two walk out with Madeline shouting “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.” Put in a position where Helen teeters on stairs much like she had turns sour for both when the decision is made for her and Madeline is pushed down along with. You can imagine what would happen to such old, fragile bodies (37 years later) after falling at this point.

  The dark humor of the entire film being great every time I view the film. It isn’t always outright but it can be at enough moments. Of course if your one that doesn’t get those tiny references often thrown into film, then you may not find it as amusing. Lisle’s man slaves were named Tom, Dick and Harry and the reason for putting them in that order being to further assist in the phrase it refers to. *I do though often find me having to explain why I chuckle at certain moments for other films, which often makes me feel old-er* Aside from those small instances however the film is consistently funny through. The Doctor that gives the card to Madeline had a really bad twitch that he clearly would almost regret, if not liking the way he looked more (a customers of Lisles’). There’s another moment after Helen comes back from the dead and Willis shouts “It’s another miracle!” Or when his character packed up and was trying to leave; the girls tried to drug him but he spilled more of his drink the more upset he became, rambling on about doing something better with his life. When Ernest begins choking Madeline there’s a greats quick shot of her feet slightly lifted above the ground that turned out nice. The twisted shrine Helen has for her old friend and how elaborate it was, with big letters of NEVER AGAIN at the top. Entirely too many to name them all but full of great moments along those lines.

  Of course, to make a film about appearance reigning over all meant having to shoot in real locations to show you an “exaggerated” depiction of that particular lifestyle. Rich people may like to talk the talk, but it’s their spoils that does the walking for them. Filming in and around L.A. ensured the look while a team of 16 people assisted with the each Actor aging and unaging over a span of 50 years. Miniatures, computer graphics, digital technology and blue screen work all a part of the puzzle with Willis having to spend 3 hours each day in makeup. The way they created the effect for Meryl being that they would get the shot of her walking backwards with a blue mask over her head. Later at a blue screen, having her sit in a chair with just her head uncovered and filming the head movements to later composite the scenes together. The movie did end doing pretty well on their numbers so I’m not sure how many people don’t know this exists. While they don’t say in the movie how much the potion was, Meryl stated 1,000,000 in the special features. Would you pay that much knowing it meant eternal youth? What is an appropriate amount for such a thing? I personally wouldn’t want that. What a dreaded thought, living forever in your arrogance.