Death Becomes Her

Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis

Hollywood has always been obsessed with beauty, whether it's real or not.  That's why Los Angeles is the home of many, many plastic surgeons.  Though these surgeons are well paid, I would imagine they have to march to the tunes of their often-wealthy clientele.  Until I saw Robert Zemeckis' Death Becomes Her, I never thought about how nerve-wrecking that could be at times.
Actress Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) and author Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) have been longtime friends and rivals.  In fact, Madeline has this nasty habit of stealing the men in Helen’s life.  When Helen and her fiancé, plastic surgeon Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), attend a 1978 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth starring Madeline, the only person enamored with Madeline’s performance is Ernest.  Soon after, Ernest goes on a dinner date with Madeline.  Helen finds out, and he reassures her that it’s purely business.  Nonetheless, Ernest fails the Madeline Ashton test.  He ditches Helen and marries Madeline.  This kind of heartbreak completely devastates Helen.
Seven years later in 1985, Helen is overweight, depressed, and obsessed with Madeline.  After some financial troubles, she is evicted from her apartment but ignores the order to do so.  She is then committed to a mental institution where she drives the patients and doctors nuts with her obsession with Madeline.  After some time at the psychiatric hospital, Helen pretends to have gotten over her issues while being treated by her psychologist (Alaina Reed Hall) and escapes to begin plotting her revenge against Madeline. 
Seven years later in 1992, Madeline is an aging actress, and her alcoholic husband Ernest has become a reconstructive mortician.  Obsessed with the beauty of her youth, Madeline visits a spa for some facial treatments.  While there, she receives the business card for a woman named Lisle Von Rhoman (Isabella Rossellini), a woman who specializes in helping individuals regain their youthful beauty.  Later, Helen invites Madeline and Ernest to the book-signing party for her latest novel.  While there, Madeline witnesses that Helen has become a young, thin, and beautiful creature at the ripe old age of 50.  A jealous and enraged Madeline decides to call Lisle.  She goes to the woman’s home and drinks a magical potion that gives her a youthful vitality.  Meanwhile, Helen continues to carry out her revenge and includes Ernest in a plot to kill Madeline.  There’s just one problem.  Now that Madeline has taken the potion, she’s become a permanent tenant in her mortal body.
For a movie about beauty and youth, Death Becomes Her is one of the strangest comedies I’ve ever seen.  You’ve got Goldie Hawn in a fat suit, Bruce Willis playing a spineless husband, and Meryl Streep being Meryl Streep in such a goofy setting.  I get that the premise is a bit crazy with all the supernatural crap dominating the movie, but the high caliber of stars in this Robert Zemeckis flick should lend itself to a better film overall.  I can deal with zany stuff as much as the next guy, but I reached my saturation point when Streep and Hawn have a shovel fight.  That's got to be a low point in the careers of both these Oscar-winning actresses.  As a performer, that's something you just don't want to put on your résumé.

The cast members definitely give some mixed performances.  Goldie Hawn is pitch-perfect as Helen Sharp.  At the age of 46 when technology was far more limited than it is today, she still looked good enough to pull off that youthful look with her ageless beauty.  On the other hand, Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actresses of all time and shows it even in this mediocre flick.  With that in mind, there is no excuse for letting Hawn look better than her even when they're both undead.  For most of the film, Streep looked as old as dirt.  Streep was 43 years of age at the time.  You do the math.  That's a damn shame.  While he may not have to worry about looking better than his two co-stars, Bruce Willis does need to worry about giving a worthwhile performance for the flick.  He's just goofing off throughout the movie, and you can see it on camera.  Where's the effort Bruce?

Beyond the quest for youth and beauty, vengeance is a major theme in Death Becomes Her.  Oddly enough, I find this oddball comedy reminding me of the Showtime drama The Borgias.  Several times this season, Jeremy Irons’s Rodrigo Borgia has uttered the words “Vengeance is patient.  It can wait a lifetime if it must.”  Helen’s vengeance certainly does.  The only problem is that it isn't worth the wait for us the viewers.  Director Robert Zemeckis needed to get to the point and wrap this crap up.  Death Becomes Her gets a 0.09% rating.  Have a few Gin & Tonics with this one.