Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The BC Review: Defending Your Life

My husband's been wanting me to see this one for quite some time (as he claims) so I decided to give it a whirl.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to catch Defending Your Life on the big screen soon, unless the AFI Silver Theatre picks it as a release(it's one off the Netflix queue as it was released in 1991). But it is worth the rental.

Starring Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life is about a man who's life comes to an abrupt and premature end. Brooks plays Daniel Miller, a middle-aged divorcee with a less-than satisfying career. Following his sudden departure from this world Daniel is subsequently sent to Judgment City (a less intimidating version of purgatory).

Don't get too discouraged yet! Yes, the film gets off to a bleak start, but we are instantly whisked away to a beautiful location that the tour guides (yes, there are tour guides here) explain is meant to resemble the landscape and pleasant temperatures of the Western United States (i.e. California) and should be pleasing to the soul. Guests of the city are afforded comfortable lodging in the form of a hotel, soothing tram rides with remarkably efficient arrival and departure schedules, and comfortable "Tupahs" (loose-fitting white clothing with matching slippers).

As the film's tagline portends, Defending Your Life is "the first true story of what happens after you die."

Co-starring Meryl Streep, it is delightfully funny and actually succeeds (in this reviewer's case) in presenting death in an appetizing way. How? For starters, here in Judgment City you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and as much as you want, WITHOUT the added pounds, expense, and guilt. Now, under those circumstances, who wouldn't want to pass on to the other side? (One of the best scenes involves Meryl chowing down on a ginormous plate of pasta at a whopping 3 pounds!!) About the desire for death, I kid of course, but it is at least a little intriguing.

And to top it all off, as the film portends, in Judgment City there is even room for newfound love...

But with all things there are some drawbacks to being in resident at Judgment City. Case in point, the fact that you are there (as Albert Brooks is) to DEFEND your life. And defend it to who? Get ready for this; the Universe. In this creative dramedy, the Universe is represented by capable prosecutors who exist to put you on trial and measure whether or not you've passed the tests put in front of you during your earthly life (namely, overcoming your fears). If so, then you are granted a pass to "move ahead" (important note: no one ever explains what this means, but based on the ethereal music I think it is safe to say it is a good thing). If not, it is back to earth you go!

All in all, a great film worthy of any one's viewing (as long as he/she is equipped with a marginal sense of humor when it comes to life and death!).

Reviewer's note: Keep an eye out for Rip Torn as Daniel Miller's defense attorney, Bob Diamond.

New feature: Watch the Trailer

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B