Death Becomes Her (1992)

Death Becomes Her (1992)

1992 | PG-13 | 104 Minutes

Fantasy | Comedy

Madeline is married to Ernest, who was once arch-rival Helen's fiance. After recovering from a mental breakdown, Helen vows to kill Madeline and steal back Ernest. Unfortunately for everyone, the i...

Overall Rating

6 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • Death Becomes Her consumes magical powers of youth to avoid typical roles for its actors. Freakishly bizarre. Absurdly unusual. Unnaturally weird. The schlocky originality that oozes out of every aspect that the film harnesses, is enough to make me question my own verdict. Not since the Japanese problematic extravaganza 'Hausu', have I completed a film with an overwhelming sense of conflicting emotions. Did I, or did I not, like Death Becomes Her? I just don't know. However, after a night of reflection (literally, staring at a mirror) and clinging onto my youthful complexion, I finally came to an all important conclusion. I liked it. After running off into the sunset with a beautiful actress, a plastic surgeon finds himself battling his own morality when the two lovers in his life drink a potion that grants them the power to live forever (with youthful looks, of course).

    An absurdist's perspective on vanity and lust, Zemeckis' black comedy blends his trademark innovative visual effects with purposefully exaggerated performances to produce a somewhat humorous tale exploring the shallow depths of mortality. The only reason why this film works as well as it does, is due to the sheer bombastic hyperbole. Streep, Willis, Hawn and even Zemeckis himself are all out of their comfort zones and, whilst it clearly becomes evident that this is the case, works for just how campy the overall tone is. The first act is flat and unfortunately cannot decide what direction to take.

    However as soon as Streep consumes the potion of youth, Zemeckis throws all of his magical cards on the table. Stylised visuals to re-animate inconceivable body positions (albeit somewhat dated now), Streep and Willis hamming up their performances to maximum potential and enough squabbles to fuel a heavy-weight championship.

    The problem, which is why I was left undecided, was with how hollow the entire film was. The light thematic exploration on vanity, grief, loss, mortality, beauty and wealth were not enough to prevent the story from feeling empty. The narrative time jumps from seven to thirty-something years. The characters rarely being likeable, lacking an emotional investment towards the shovel whacking shenanigans and spray painted disguises. The story absent of natural development due to the lightning-pace of the narrative. Many comedic moments coming off as relentlessly forced and not receiving the intended laughs. I would even go as far as saying that Streep overacted too excessively! A consequence of such a campy, schlocky and exaggerated film is, whilst original in concept, can be deemed as "critic-proof". The criticisms on the silly performances, absurd story and uncontrolled dialogue are instantly diminished by the fact that Zemeckis intended the film to harness those qualities. But, in doing so, has left a gaping hole (much like the one Streep produced on Hawn's stomach...) that forces the end product to be artificially hollow.

    Don't get me wrong, it was enjoyable light entertainment and once Zemeckis found his footing the humour was uncovered in every scene. Just an experience that left me wanting to sip some more youth tonic, considering it's unique aesthetic. Rossellini looked fabulous though, like damn...!