Death Becomes Her
- Meryl Streep as Madeline Ashton
- Goldie Hawn as Helen Sharp
- Bruce Willis as Ernest Menville
- Isabella Rossellini as Lisle
A savagely comedic and satiric look at vanity, bitter rivalry and revenge, Death Becomes Her is one heady bitches brew. Boasting eye-popping special effects and devilish work from the cast, it’s a dark comedy fantasy that is a hoot with the added mix of magic and bitchy one liners.
Madeline Ashton is a narcissistic, bitchy actress who is a real success. She has a rivalry with aspiring writer Helen Sharp and does anything she can to get one up on her. But Madeline crosses the line when she seduces Helen’s fiancée Ernest Menville, a prominent plastic surgeon to the stars and the two eventually marry. This causes Helen to completely break down and she is sectioned. Years later, Madeline and her demanding ways have driven Ernest to drink and he is now a mortician. Madeline is also something of a has been as she is getting older, and there is a demand for younger actresses. It is here that she bumps into Helen again, who is now a successful author and looking just as young as she did all those years before. What Madeline doesn’t know is that Helen has been planning revenge on her and plans to execute it soon. Shocked by Helen’s youthful appearance, Madeline soon finds an intriguing answer to her own age issues in the form of Lisle. Lisle is a wealthy socialite and possibly a sorceress, who has divined a potion that gives the person who drinks it eternal youth. Obsessed with looking young again, Madeline takes the potion. Yet the potion doesn’t just grant eternal youth but also immortality. Meanwhile, Helen puts her plan to get Ernest back into action and battles it out with Madeline, with poor Ernest stuck in the middle of it all. But the plotting Helen herself also took the potion years before and now as they commence in battle, it is getting harder to get one up on the other as both are in a sense indestructible and neither can die.
Robert Zemeckis directs this lively and darkly amusing film with a fast-paced panache, relishing all the biting lines that the script has to offer. He funnily satirizes society’s obsession with beauty and age with a cutting wit. Let’s just say, this guy knows how to keep a movie eventful and very entertaining as Madeline and Helen go to war. The special effects in Death Becomes Her deserve a huge mention as they really are very impressive in highlighting the immortality of both woman and the many injuries they inflict on each other, that only cause a bit of damage like a neck out-of-place or a bullet hole through the chest, that eventually spring back to normal. Some will say that the special effects take precedence over the story, but it actual fact they compliment it very well and lead to black comedy of the highest order. A dazzling, adventurous score provides the backdrop of darkness tinged with a morbid playfulness that is ever-present through Death Becomes Her and makes it a real treat.
What really gives Death Becomes Her that real snap and morbid humour is the performances from the splendid cast. Meryl Streep is utterly fabulous as the wicked bitch Madeline, constantly obsessed with being young again and finding that it has a price. She obviously savours the razor-sharp put downs that Madeline spews and gives the role a diva like persona of total star quality. Her acting alongside Goldie Hawn pays off successfully as they share a devilish chemistry with each other. Goldie Hawn is equally as good as Streep, playing Helen as downtrodden but deliciously scheming to the hilt. Taking a break from the macho action roles he is mostly known for, Bruce Willis shows his versatility as the much abused Ernest. Exuding a gawkiness and befuddled anxiety, he really shows what a talented actor he is. Adding wickedly sensual support is Isabella Rossellini as the magical woman with the potion that leads to eternal youth and more.
A wickedly gleeful comedy fantasy, brimming with verve and hysterical outrageousness, Death Becomes Her is a dark delight of a movie.