Death Becomes Her (1992)
Reviewed on 2008 February 6
Extremely dark, funny movie for anyone who ever looked at a glossy magazine ad and thought the beaming celebrity that told us she looked that good thanks to “diet and exercise” was holding back something good from us plebeians. Robert Zemeckis travels that dark way of thinking very nicely.
Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn, and they actually made her believably ordinary here) is engaged to Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a brilliant plastic surgeon. She should be blissfully happy, but she’s worried because Ernest has yet to pass the Madeline Ashton test. Madeline (Meryl Streep) is an old friend(?) and glamorous but pedestrian actress who stole every boyfriend she ever had, and Helen just can’t rest until she knows Ernest will be faithful. Of course he can’t, and Helen is devastated.
The years pass and we learn things aren’t happy for the aging Madeline, either. Her career was never the stuff of legend and now she probably kvells to get a toilet cleaner ad. When a shady plastic surgeon refers her to a little-known woman he says can work wonders, she hopes she finally found a way to prevent aging, never thinking the cure brings a whole other set of problems with it.
Martin Donovan and David Koepp wrote a brilliant, funny, nasty script that resonates for a good reason: nobody wants to get old. This movie looks at the alternative and it’s not too pleasant either. If you’re a female, you’ve probably entertained thoughts of a remote lab somewhere, stocked with shelves of volatile but effective stuff gathered from places you can barely find on a map and jealously handed out to a select few. After seeing this, you’ll just put on more sunblock. It’s dark but it is very funny, and it won several awards for special effects. Hawn and Streep are wonderful, but the real joy is watching Bruce Willis play whipped.
Three chocolate morsels.