Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis star in this wonderfully weird, dark comedy about vanity, revenge and immortality. When talentless stage-starlet Madaline (Streep) steals Helen’s (Hawn) fiance, Ernest (Willis), Helen goes mad plotting revenge. Several years of marriage later, Ernest is a Beverly Hills undertaker and Madaline is washed up and unhappily aging. When they meet Helen again at her book launch party, they expect to find a frumpier version of her. Instead she is more gorgeous than ever, tempting Ernest and driving Madaline mad with jealousy.
After the party, in a moment of fragile vanity, Madaline seeks out what she assumed was a very exclusive beauty treatment. It leads her to a huge mansion where she learns about a potion that will make her young and beautiful forever. Meanwhile, Helen is busy seducing Ernest and plotting to dispose of Madaline. But this new gift of immortality will complicate their plans and turns out to be more of a curse.
The special effects in this film are pretty advanced and convincing for 1992. The film even won the Oscar for visual effects. They really help deliver the supernatural and gruesome aspects of the film. When the potion is used, it gives off a strange glow as it travels through the body, illuminating veins and deaging the actors before our eyes. Seeing Hawn walk around with a huge hole right through her abdomen, or Streep with her neck so twisted her head is facing the opposite direction can be a sickening sight. It’s the acting that brings out the hilarious dark comedy in these moments, like Streep, not realizing her head is backwards, looking down and crying, “My ass!”
Bruce Willis’s performance in Death Becomes Her is one of my favorites of his to date. His portrayal makes Ernest so dorky, goofy, and just sad enough to make the audience empathetic. The moments that go nearly over-the-top always bring a good laugh. While at the beginning he seems to be stumbling into some fantasy of having two women fight over him, he ends up in a nightmare where both the women are literally falling apart and depend on him for his undertaker beauty techniques. When tempted to drink the potion, he hilariously questions immortality with “What if I get bored?!” Which is a lot more than the ladies questioned, but makes all the difference.
In the Halloween season, Death Becomes Her is a funny, twisted piece of light horror. The gothic and gaudy mansions of Beverly Hills in the early 90s are a perfect setting for this modern monster movie. With the gore, love triangle themes and strong sexual references, I wouldn’t consider this a movie for the whole family, but perfect for a fun date night on the couch.
“Where did you put my wife? The morgue? She’ll be furious!”