Death Becomes Her (1992)
For some reason I was attracted to this film, with a cast as varied as Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep then there is definitely something to see, added to that the direction of Robert Zemeckis who had come off the back of great success with the Back to the Future trilogy (1985 – 1990) and Romancing the Stone (1984) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Then it was more than worth while to see what Death Becomes Her (1992).
With one of the oldest and most human of themes, that of slowing down the ageing process. Something which has been seen throughout film and in science in the form of make-up and cosmetic surgery. Before we even get to the meat if the film there is an old rivalry between two feuding friends one a middle of the road actress Madeline Ashton (Streep) and author Helen Sharp (Hawn) that has Helen lose countless men to the clutches of man-eater Madeline who takes away her latest man and marries cosmetic surgeon Ernest Menville (Willis) who was already a big fan of the actress.
That was all in 1972, we then rejoin the action briefly in 1979 when Helen has let herself go, consumed with anger and surrounded by cats, she needs to get her life back on track, for her there is only one way.
Then in 1986 where the action really takes place, both Madeline and Ernest have been married far too long, cracks have been showing for sometime now. Her success is on the decline, always wanting to look forever young. Whilst her husband has become the undertaker to the stars. Not the life they were hoping for. Whilst the once jealous friend Helen make a return with a bang, a new book and a new look, a look that everyone is jealous of, even her old friend Madeline.
The secret is later revealed in a dark L.A. mansion, oozing with sexuality and temptation as a seemingly young woman Lisle Von Rhuman (Isabella Rossellini) offers a way to stay young – forever. I could hear echoes of Rossellini’s mother Ingrid Bergman in the seductive performance before we saw her on-screen. A role her mother would surely have loved to see her in. The offer of internal youth is something to not pass up by Madeline ready with her cheque book to sign away her humanity. The temptation was too great, whilst at the same time not there at all. A woman consumed with wanting to look young again will do anything, when she has an image to maintain.
Whilst temptations are being offered on a plate, murder is being plotted back home, something that still seems certain to happen, in the alternate scenes we see as a Madeline is disposed of. All these carefully laid and farcical plans are all thrown out of the window when the laws of nature are broken in a marital fight to great comical effect. The truth is later revealed to the once respected cosmetic surgeon who has fallen into a trap that could see him maintaining both women for the rest of his life.
A fun film that lightly discusses the issue if cosmetic surgery and the desire to look young. Something that is more a female issue, whilst men are happier with growing old. However that is slowly changing with cosmetic surgeries that can solve baldness, cover grey hairs. Growing old gracefully is not an idea that is easily accepted. But when faced with the prospect of living forever and seeing what the consequences maybe as two mannequins who reflect today’s culture of older women trying to look young to the extreme as we see to the end of the film. A clever black comedy that is another chance to see Willis without a gun and to see him acting and having fun still. Whilst Streep and Hawn are having a ball as they fight each even to the end when they have to rely on each other more and more.
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