Death Becomes Her (1992) Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis.
From Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis, comes this playful comedy-fantasy film set in Beverly Hills about two bitter rivals (Streep and Hawn) aiming to out-do each other in the pursuit of staying young, beautiful and adored.
Beneath the flamboyant comic exterior, there is a deeper issue to pay attention to here. Hollywood’s insistence on ‘young and beautiful’ is ripe for a bit of playground fun-poking, but it is a sinister, often destructive attitude that lends itself well to the dark comic tones of Death Becomes Her. The film is at pains to flaunt the ridiculous, kiss-ass nature of self-obsessed people and their thinly-veiled narcissism. It is in these moments that it hits its mark. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn revel in the opportunity to vamp it up while wickedly sparring with each other, with Bruce Willis on the sidelines as their bumbling victim/referee.
Through some enjoyable special effects and physical acting (particularly by Streep), Zemeckis captures a sense of knockabout fun that gives the film its appeal. For the actors, it’s a stage to deliver cartoon performances straight out of panto-school, with Streep and Hawn scabrously jostling for attention and adulation.
Although the film begins promisingly and is elevated by the gusto of its leads, at the same time it fails to find a stable comedic rhythm and gradually loses its grip on our attention. The final third seems to fizzle rather than fizz, as the plot begins to show signs of fatigue.
For a director as celebrated as Zemeckis, Death Becomes Her isn’t anything to write home about. It’s sometimes as disjointed as Meryl Streep’s neck becomes, with fits and starts of comedy that provoke smiles rather than laughs. Still, there’s some fun if your’e in the mood for it. 3/5