Rated PG-13 for some nudity and off-color humor.
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Written By: Martin Donovan and David Koepp
Staring: Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, Isabella Rossellini, Ian Ogilvy, Adam Storke, Nancy Fish, and Alaina Reed Hall
This is life’s ultimate cruelty. It offers us a taste of youth and vitality, and then it makes us witness our own decay. -Lisle Von Rhuman
Forget about the stellar cast here, Robert Zemeckis, the director (Back To The Future, Romancing The Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) forgets that he’s be given a top notch cast and structures the focus of the film on the effects and costumes. Even with a lack of attention to what the actors can bring to the table;Hawn, Willis, and Streep make this twisted black doomsday comedy utterly funny and even a bit disturbing.
Two women are fixated on the same man, and strangely not one that seems all that appealing. All disturbed to their inner cores the vain and beautiful actress is living the life the overweight writer is not. Driven by the desire for beauty and fame, the author suddenly appears a size 2 and ravishingly gorgeous. The competition for Willis begins and each have discovered a magical elixir that promises eternal youth, life and loveliness. While the potion does deliver it’s eternal beauty and youth, there are side effects each woman never conceived, making the story an almost cartoon effects ridden film.
The special effects do distract from the story and the performances, but lets be honest this film doesn’t appear to have the qualities of something that takes itself too seriously. The premise of the film is outrageous, and the execution has a severe tongue in cheek. Just because the comedy was taken to such a dark level doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful in delivering it’s humor. Zemeckis did a phenomenal job of integrating the decaying bodies, and violent battles, not to mention Hawn’s fat suit, naturally enough into the story to seem plausible. No, there wasn’t a depth of heart and soul behind the scenes, but even in it’s superficial madness it did succeed at being funny. The only problem was it had the potential to be even funnier.
Having such a talented cast gave Zemeckis even greater tools to utilize that for some reason he simply left alone. Though the film does pass itself off as witty satire on Hollywood Stars and the obsessive desire to do anything to remain beautiful and young at all costs, it’s relevance isn’t fully explored. It was a hugely missed alternative way of viewing the film. It could have made it’s point about America’s obsession with youth and Hollywood icons without patronizing the viewers while still entertaining them. Unfortunately the special effects were a constant distraction from anything of worthy substance.
This film is unquestionably funny, but it missed the opportunity to be both funny and smart. I always enjoy watching it but I can’t help but always wish it was better. Death Becomes Her has a specific audience and may appeal to men who are domineered by women and the women in the world desperate to retain their youth. Hopefully they can laugh at the films jesting rather than take it as a personal attack, though one could see how easy that would be. This film has an enthralling darkness, and an underlying layer of wit and eloquence. It’s execution does leave something to be desired, but is a fun movie overall.