Defending Your Life (1991)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):     BBB

USA, 1991.  Geffen Pictures.  Screenplay by Albert Brooks.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Hollywood’s vision of the afterlife is given a bitterly comic tone in this charmer by Albert Brooks. After dying in a car accident, Brooks finds himself in a world beyond earth where people can eat whatever fatty foods they want and use higher percentages of their brain. Before being taken to further stages of the after world where people can grow and develop their powers of knowledge, every person who enters Judgment City must first face a panel of judges who closely examine their lives and decide how they should progress. Brooks faces quite a challenge when his judging panel (led by Lee Grant) decides that he spent his life avoiding every opportunity to face his fears. Then he meets a woman (Meryl Streep) who is also undergoing the same ordeal and finds his feelings for her helping him to face the challenges that lie ahead. A lot of the smaller jokes (the aforementioned freedom with food, an exhibit hosted by Shirley MacLaine where you can view your ‘past lives’) are what highlight the story, as the main plot is weak and the resolution completely uninvolving. Streep is absolutely brilliant, giving an understated performance that is just as memorable and enjoyable as her more dramatic roles in the past had been riveting and unforgettable.

The Criterion Collection:  #1071

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