Thursday, June 23, 2011
DEFENDING YOUR LIFE
(March 1991, U.S.)
Let's get this out of the way right now; Albert Brooks' character, Daniel Miller, dies at the beginning of the film. There, I said it! And if you're not bright enough to figure that out just by looking at the movie poster, then I don't know what to tell you! Now I have to say, with regard to how he dies, that I don't know what I consider sadder (in a pathetic way) - the fact that Daniel is careless enough while driving his brand new BMW to crash head-on into an oncoming bus or the fact that he's listening to Barbra Streisand sing a show tune when it happens (no disrespect intended toward my wife and mother-in-law; big Barbra fans!). You be the judge.
Now Hollywood has repeatedly tried to give movie audiences an idea of what life after death might be like. Albert Brooks tries to tell it just the way you'd probably like to hear it. To begin with, you get great night sleeps in very nice hotels, you feel very comfortable and relaxed, and best of all - you get to eat as much tempting food as you want and it'll never affect you physically. Based on that alone...what I mean is that if death means outstanding omlettes, roasted chickens, shrimp and pasta...well, who knows! But nothing's perfect, even in the beautiful afterlife. The downside of all this fun is that each and every deceased person must endure several days of having their former life judged by a panel of experts. If you've lived your life (almost) perfectly and learned the right things along the way, then you'll move on to the next phase (whatever it is). If you've made too many mistakes, too many errors in judgement and haven't gotten past your fears, you'll go back to Earth and start all over. So guess which lack-of-assertiveness category Daniel falls under? During his trial, a series of episodes in which Daniel did not overcome his fears seems to indicate that he will not be allowed to move on. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with Julia (played by Meryl Streep), a woman who lived a seemingly perfect life of courage and generosity, especially compared to his...and yes, they do fall in love. But Julia will move on and Daniel won't unless he can display one great act of courage that proves he can overcome fear. Well, love stories usually follow some sort of cliche. So, yes, he does and they both move on together and live happily ever after. Awww!
Now I can't call DEFENDING YOUR LIFE the funniest movie ever made, but it is inventive and considerably fun in the fantasy it creates about the afterlife, especially the whole "all you can eat" thing. In fact, when you watch Meryl Streep's character really, really, take in the enjoyment of eating all this great food and then consider the role she played in JULIE & JULIA (2009), as well, you can easily convince yourself that Meryl Streep just loves, loves, loves to eat food! I should also point out that I can't help but break out in real laughter when I see the wide-eyed, horrified look on Daniel's face when he sees one of his past lives; a native man running for his life from a hungry animal. Watch it and you'll see what I mean.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Daniel Miller: "Is this Heaven?"
Bob Diamond: "No, it isn't Heaven."
Daniel: "Is it Hell?"
Bob: "Nope, it isn't Hell either. Actually, there is no Hell. Although I hear Los Angeles is getting pretty close."