In the early 90's Meryl and Goldie Hawn were interested in doing a project together. As I've already covered in one of my early shoulda coulda wouldas, Thelma & Louise was on the radar as a possibility. For several reasons you've hopefully read in the aforementioned link, it didn't pan out. A year later the two ended up starring alongside each other in the campy, now cult-classic film Death Becomes Her.
By 1992 we saw four consecutive Hollywood films from Meryl with She-Devil, Postcards from the Edge, Defending Your Life and Death Becomes Her. This move was likely a combination of choosing more "commercial" roles as she approached 40, and wanting some stability for her family. In my opinion it's her roughest patch in terms of film quality, but I'll cover that in more depth in a future post.
This film marked the first time Meryl had to contend with extensive green screen work, as she and Goldie's characters go through a series of bodily transformations. The film tells the quirky story of two "frenemies," Madeline Ashton (Meryl), an aging actress who steals Helen Sharp's (Goldie) plastic surgeon fiancé (Bruce Willis). Helen becomes morbidly obese, obsesses about the breakup, and develops a homicidal attitude toward Madeline.
Here's where it gets weird(er). Several years later Helen and Madeline meet again. While Madeline is looking rather aged despite her extensive and expensive efforts, Helen is miraculously transformed into a svelte beauty. Turns out the physical transformation came from a potion that Madeline eventually gets her hands on as well. The two discover each other's secret and after attempts to do away with one another, end up together with nothing but their broken bodies and lonely minds.
Not exactly what we're used to seeing from Meryl. As always she's brilliant in the role. I particularly enjoy how well she portrays someone who's image obsessed while making the character seem more physically unattractive than she probably is. It helps tremendously with the contrast of her post-potion appearance. While Madeline is a desperate, pathetic person, Meryl manages to portray her more comically tragic than anything. Initially hating her, we begin to feel sorry for her.
Commercially the film was reasonably sucessful, won the Oscar for its CGI visual effects and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Meryl. Not too shabs. Although I get a kick out of the film for is goofiness and camp, I tend to consider it an unnecessary misstep for someone of Meryl's expertise. She's been quoted as saying she thought working on a film with such detail on special effects was incredibly tedious and that Death Becomes Her would be her one and only. No protestations here.