merylfest: DEATH BECOMES HER (1992)

The peak of Streep silliness may just be Death Becomes Her (yes, I’ve seen Mamma Mia! and no, I haven’t seen She-Devil). Maybe I should rephrase — the height of good Streep silliness is Death Becomes Her. Thanks to some delightfully ridiculous writing, some Academy Award-winning special effects that are still pretty uncanny today, and some great (and surprisingly dowdy) supporting turns from Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis, Death Becomes Her is a fairly hilarious, definitely fun entry in Streep’s filmography. The flick follows Madeline Ashton (Streep), an aging actress who’s dissatisfied with her marriage to plastic surgeon husband Ernest (Willis), who happens upon the secret to eternal youth. Which just so happens to be in a bottle that the nearly nude Isabella Rossellini keeps in her creepy mansion that’s filled with burly male models. Naturally.

Anyway… the husband-stealing Madeline irks her former buddy Helen (Hawn), who’s after revenge. Along with all of these zany antics, you’ll see (based on the picture to the right), that the whole “eternal youth” thing comes with some disturbing side effects. Don’t mess with voodoo, ladies and gentleman. One of the great (and underused) mysteries of Meryl Streep is that she’s actually a quite gifted comic actress. Though she’s better known for her dramatic turns, she has excellent timing, and she tends to have great chemistry with comedic co-stars (Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Garrison Keillor, Emily Blunt, etc.). So when something like this movie comes along, though silly in almost every way, it’s still a cherishable feat.

Streep is charming as ever as Madeline, and the makeup and effects are remarkable. If anything, the film lacks some cohesion. It prides itself on being insanity most steps of the way. But it’s gift of both awesome fight scenes between Streep and Hawn (the infamous shoveling in particular) and that hilariously cheesy self-serving opening number make up for where it lacks.

Meryl’s Performance: B+
The Film: B

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