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This film is unusual. It's comedic, it's genuinely disturbing, it's silly, and it's unsettling. It's a visual spectacle with a solid concept and message. It's many things, and I think the right people have to find it.
The characters are interesting. The main two forces are Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn). The former is a bitchy stage actress who fears aging, and the latter is a bitchy writer who has had many boyfriends stolen by the former. Ernest (Bruce Willis) is the latest of these, a failed surgeon forced to be a mortician after alcohol impairment. The two ladies are horrible people, catty and spiteful, but their motivations are sympathetic, almost tragic. If not primarily focusing on it, the film offers good insight into the issues with female rivalry and the expectations for youth and beauty placed on women. Ernest is a bit of a weak casting choice, as Willis is often too loud and says "oh boy" for moments that warrant much stronger, but he's okay. Streep and Hawn ham it up just right.
The main gimmick of the story is the idea of immortality gone wrong. Madeline is directed to Lisle, a mysterious woman guarding a potion of vitality that grants Mad her peak condition forever (Hel's already done it). But while the person may be immortal, the body is not. Madeline and Helen both receive fatal injuries that drive them further into immoral behavior in the desire to maintain their bodies now that they have been trapped in a much worse form of aging—decay. Great concept, and it feels like a modern Gothic tale.
The effects are really good (Helen's Torso with a View is less impressive today, but Madeline's twisted neck is great), and deserve their acclaim. The comedy is also surprisingly perfect, with some absurd matter-of-fact behavior offsetting the traumatic injuries and their consequences. I like that it's not pure drama and not pure comedy. It's nice.
I think there's some solid concepts, characters, and messages here, but it's definitely a cult film for its unique approach.
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