If you’re in the mood for a wickedly funny film and also want to celebrate the living legend Meryl Streep on her 74th birthday, here is just the treat for you.
The campy horror classic Death Becomes Her stands out in Streep’s repertoire for being funny and having her in one of the most glamorous roles of her career. Released in 1992 and met with less than stellar critical appreciation at the time, this dark comedy has stood the test of time.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this hilariously twisted tale about our collective obsession with youth features an all-star cast—Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, and Isabella Rossellini, brilliant writing, and memorable characters.
David Koepp, who also wrote blockbuster films like Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, and Mission: Impossible, co-wrote the screenplay for Death Becomes Her with Martin Donovan. The film won an Oscar and BAFTA for ‘Best Visual Effects’, and even earned Streep a Golden Globe nomination in the ‘Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy’ category.
Dive into a campy classic from Meryl Streep on Netflix now.
What is Death Becomes Her about?
Death Becomes Her revolves around Madeline Ashton (played by Streep) and Helen Sharp (played by Hawn), friends turned foes turned allies in everlasting life. Madeline is a famous actor hailed for her beauty, while Helen is a talented writer. When Helen discovers that her fiancé Ernest (played by Willis) and Madeline are having an affair, she spirals into despair.
Enter the mysterious and stunning Lisle von Rhoman (played by Rossellini), a fabulous witch who offers Madeline and Helen a chance to retain their youth and beauty through a magical potion. Of course, she forgets to mention that there is a catch. Thereby ensues a hilarious mess brought upon by the unexpected perils of immortality.
Meryl Streep is regularly lauded for her more serious roles, but her portrayal of Madeline is a comic tour de force. Streep embodies the vain and self-absorbed Madeline with her over-the-top acting, delivering one side-splitting moment after another. Even Bruce Willis and Goldie Hawn delivered impressive performances in this 1990s satire.
The queer legacy of Death Becomes Her
Over the years, Death Becomes Her has also attained cult status among the LGBTQ+ community. The film is celebrated during Pride Month, often screened at bar rooms and theatres, and adored by drag performers.
Death Becomes Her struck a chord with women and queer folks, who have felt restricted by the traditional portrayal of “likeable” female characters in film and television of that era. Streep’s Madeline and Hawn’s Helen were unlikeable, petty, and farcical but so very entertaining.
The film even inspired a runway show on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and influenced winners like Jinkx Monsoon. Tom Campbell, an executive producer of the show, explained why the undead divas resonate with queer audiences so much, “They’re fighting for beauty. They’re against the system. They’re also villains, but we understand their complexity.”