Bruce Willis At the Movies: DEATH BECOMES HER: A Twisted Tale of Immortality and Vanity - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Bruce Willis At the Movies: DEATH BECOMES HER: A Twisted Tale of Immortality and Vanity

In the realm of cinematic oddities, "Death Becomes Her" stands out as a delightfully dark and absurd gem. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and released in 1992, this satirical black comedy is a peculiar entry in Bruce Willis's filmography. As we embark on this retrospective journey, we'll explore the origins, production details, and legacy of "Death Becomes Her," a film that blends immortality, vanity, and twisted humor.

The Premise and Storyline: Immortality's Dark Side

"Death Becomes Her" introduces us to a trio of central characters caught in a web of narcissism and supernatural intrigue. Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) is a fading Hollywood actress obsessed with maintaining her youth and beauty at any cost. Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) is her former best friend, left broken and overweight after Madeline stole her fiancé, Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a talented plastic surgeon.

The narrative takes a surreal turn when Madeline reenters Helen's life, flaunting her newfound youthful appearance. Helen, consumed by jealousy and bitterness, stumbles upon a mysterious and enigmatic woman named Lisle von Rhuman (Isabella Rossellini), who offers her a secret potion promising immortality and everlasting beauty. Helen, desperate for revenge and eternal youth, partakes in the elixir, setting off a chain of absurd and darkly comedic events.

As Madeline and Helen's bodies undergo bizarre transformations and seemingly defy the laws of mortality, Ernest is drawn into their tumultuous lives, becoming the hapless pawn in their quest for eternal beauty. The film unfolds as a wickedly funny exploration of the consequences of unchecked vanity and the price one pays for immortality.

Behind the Scenes: The Art of Practical Effects

"Death Becomes Her" is notable for its pioneering use of visual effects and practical makeup. The film's special effects team, led by Ken Ralston, pushed the boundaries of technology at the time to bring its bizarre premise to life. The result was groundbreaking, earning the film an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Bruce Willis's role in the film was somewhat unconventional compared to his typical action-hero characters. As Ernest Menville, a beleaguered plastic surgeon caught between two immortal rivals, Willis displayed his comedic chops, adding depth to the film's absurd humor. His portrayal of the exasperated and overwhelmed Ernest was a departure from his usual tough-guy persona and showcased his versatility as an actor.

Facts About the Movie:

  1. "Death Becomes Her" featured groundbreaking visual effects that allowed characters to experience grotesque bodily transformations. This was achieved using a combination of practical effects, animatronics, and digital technology, marking a significant advancement in the use of CGI for character augmentation.

  2. The film was originally intended to star Goldie Hawn and Sigourney Weaver as the two lead characters. However, when Weaver dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, Meryl Streep was brought in, resulting in a dynamic casting change that added a unique dynamic to the film.

  3. Composer Alan Silvestri provided the film's score, creating a whimsical and darkly comedic musical backdrop that complemented the story's absurdity.

Legacy: A Cult Classic of Dark Comedy

"Death Becomes Her" hit theaters on July 31, 1992, in the United States. At the time, the film garnered mixed reviews from critics but managed to perform well at the box office, grossing over $149 million worldwide. While it may not have been a critical darling, its blend of dark humor, innovative effects, and bizarre premise has cemented its status as a cult classic.

One of the enduring aspects of Bruce Willis's career is his willingness to take on diverse roles that showcase his range as an actor. In "Death Becomes Her," he embraced the absurdity of the narrative, delivering a comedic performance that demonstrated his ability to excel outside the realm of action cinema.

The film's legacy can also be seen in its influence on subsequent dark comedies and films that explore the theme of immortality. "Death Becomes Her" served as a precursor to movies like "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987) and "The Frighteners" (1996), which delved into the supernatural with a comedic twist.

Critical Reception and Retro Reviews:

Upon its release, "Death Becomes Her" received a range of reviews, reflecting its divisive and unconventional nature. Let's explore some retro reviews to gain insight into its reception:

  • Variety (1992): "A darkly humorous and visually inventive film that challenges conventions and explores the absurdity of vanity. Bruce Willis's comedic turn adds a delightful layer to this twisted tale."

  • Roger Ebert (1992): "A unique blend of comedy, horror, and satire, 'Death Becomes Her' is a daring departure from the norm. Bruce Willis's role as the beleaguered plastic surgeon is a highlight."

  • The New York Times (1992): "A surreal and often unsettling journey into the world of immortality and vanity. 'Death Becomes Her' is an acquired taste that lingers in the mind long after viewing."

In conclusion, "Death Becomes Her" remains a testament to Bruce Willis's willingness to explore unconventional roles and genres. The film's dark comedy and groundbreaking visual effects continue to captivate audiences, solidifying its status as a cult classic. As a departure from his action-hero persona, Willis's performance as the beleaguered plastic surgeon Ernest Menville showcases his versatility as an actor.

In the realm of cinema, where vanity and immortality are recurring themes, "Death Becomes Her" remains a twisted and entertaining exploration of the consequences of obsession. Its legacy lives on as a darkly comedic gem that challenges conventions and embraces the absurdity of human nature.

View all our Bruce Willis filmography retrospectives here

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