Death Becomes Her and the I’m A Girl Moment

The One-Line Summary: After writer Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) – who lost her fiancé and plastic surgeon Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis) to rival and Broadway actress Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) – spent fourteen years in therapy, she pretends to be well and seeks revenge by drinking a mystical elixir from youth rejuvenation expert Lisle Von Rhuman, who in turn offers it to Madeline, giving the women eternal life, though not the kind of life either expects when they each meet with tragedy that doesn’t quite leave them all together dead.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Death becomes Her is a wildly dark comedy that starts off brilliantly but sputters to a thud the longer it lasts, weighted down by its over-reliance on special effects that never quite feel real and yet not so silly as to be cartoonish though the overall tone of the film is exactly that, making it hard to really get a sense of the direction, despite some charm and few good laughs. One thing that does stand out though is the pervasive misogyny and callous representation of women in entertainment as only being obsessed with beauty, though the film’s only real male lead is also thoroughly stripped of his masculinity as well, as the women control just about every aspect of his life the more the story unfolds.

The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about staying viable, or at least the perception of such, as Madeline, when suddenly receiving an invitation to Helen’s new book party and wanting to look her best, heads to her favorite spa for a facial where the attendant recommends the services of Von Rhuman, though Madeline scoffs it off until she finds her secret young lover is with a woman far younger than herself. Miserable, as her marriage is falling apart and Ernest, an alcoholic, is working as a mortician, she falls into depression and with no other options, decides she will visit the Youth Rejuvenation expert. Once there, she is astounded by the beautiful and exotic Rhuman, who claims to be 71 years old though barely looks thirty.

The Four-Line Moment: After a sample of the potion smooths the skin of her hand and makes her age spot disappear, Madeline is sold and pays for the whole treatment, a vile of purple elixir that she quickly swallows. A bit foul tasting, it courses through her with blinding speed and after a moment, settles, though she is momentarily disappointed that the rejuvenation isn’t immediate, walking toward the exit thinking she might have been scammed. That changes when she stands before a full-length mirror and suddenly things begin to change, starting with her face and hair, then her backside and bosom, and all at once she is a raving young beauty again. It thoroughly pleases her, so much so that she doesn’t really listen well to the warning Lisle Von Rhuman offers concerning the need to take care of her body as it is one she will be with for a very long time, a lesson hard to learn until it’s too late.

The Five-Word Review: Sometimes funny but mostly shallow.

Clip courtesy Movieclips



Robert Zemeckis



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  1. parparvan November 13, 2015
    • David November 13, 2015