Sunday, November 6, 2022

REVIEW: Death Becomes Her (live action movie)

Death Becomes Her is a 1992 black comedy fantasy movie. I bought my copy new.


Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) and Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) are childhood rivals/frenemies who never outgrew their rivalry. When Helen becomes engaged to Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a famous plastic surgeon, she decides to put him to the test by introducing him to Madeline before their marriage - Madeline always managed to seduce guys away from her, so if his feelings are genuine, theoretically he won't be swayed. What Helen didn't count on was that Ernest is a big fan of Madeline's acting career. Despite his assurances, he ends up married to Madeline instead of Helen. 

Seven years later, Helen is obese and completely obsessed with Madeline. Seven years after that, she has somehow slimmed down and become the author of a highly successful book called Forever Young. She flaunts her success and beauty in Madeline's face, and it works, because Madeline is now painfully aware of every little way in which her looks and allure are abandoning her. Ernest, now an alcoholic reconstructive mortician, is miserable as Madeline's husband and finds himself drawn to Helen. 

While Helen tries to charm Ernest into a plan to kill Madeline, Madeline visits Lisle Von Rhuman, a mysterious and beautiful woman who claims to have a rejuvenation potion. She sells it to Madeline and sends her off with a warning to take care of her body. And so begins the next stage of Madeline and Helen's vicious and obsessive competition with one another.

I last watched this years ago and couldn't remember much about it beyond the ending and a few scenes with Madeline and Helen fighting. Since I seem to be in the process of a big movie binge with an occasional trip down memory lane, I decided to give this one a go. I'd completely forgotten how long it takes to get to the point where Madeline actually drinks the potion - the best and most memorable parts of the movie are definitely everything that comes after that. Yeesh, Goldie Hawn playing an overweight and deliberately gross Helen was very cringe-worthy.

I had also completely forgotten that Bruce Willis had a role in this movie. Considering the recent news about his aphasia, seeing him here was bittersweet. Ernest was a very different role from many of the ones he took throughout his career - a doormat of a guy designed to be a stereotypical "Beta male." Neither Madeline nor Helen really loved him. He was just another way for them to one-up each other.

I think viewers were supposed to see Ernest as the sympathetic character. Helen and Madeline were obviously toxic and ruled by their obsessions, but honestly I didn't like Ernest either. For him to be sympathetic, viewers had to see him as being so weak that he had no free will beyond whatever Madeline and Helen wanted. That's garbage, though - he was a person too, one who ditched Helen for Madeline, who ruined his own career, and who talked himself into helping commit murder. Unlike Helen and Madeline, he eventually managed to make better choices, but I still think this movie was about three terrible people, not just two.

The gender aspects were ugly and shallow, but, even so, the best and most memorable parts were when Helen and Madeline were literally trying to kill each other. Apparently neither one of them was listening when Lisle told them to take care of their bodies. It didn't even seem to matter that they couldn't even cause each other pain - they finally had a chance to do some damage to each other, and they were absolutely going to take advantage that. Who cares if it ruined their chances of actually enjoying immortality?

This movie hasn't aged well, and this rewatch didn't work out as well as some of my others, but it was still nice to watch Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis have some fun being awful together.


Although the box didn't mention any extras, there was a "making of" featurette that was interesting to watch, considering the kinds of special effects the movie required.

No comments:

Post a Comment