After all these years, Death Becomes Her is still a delightful romp – a broad blend of old Hollywood diva mudslinging, morbid farce, and goddess worship. As much as the film satirizes gratuitous ageism thrust upon women and its impact on the ego, the film adores its actresses. Isabella Rossellini reigns supreme, but Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are audience catnip even at their most vicious. With this much talent, wit, and glamour in the frame, its no surprise that director Robert Zemeckis and director of photography Dean Cundey frame them like the queens they are.
No wonder gays and drag queens have kept the film alive with all this operatic idolatry – though where are the drag queens impersonating Rossellini’s sexual septuagenarian Lisle von Rhuman? Perhaps I just missed that one by a decade.
There is also a classic monster movie element to the actresses visual representation in the film. Mad and Hel are frequently scene lurking around a corner, behind a bush, stalking into the foreground to frighten Bruce Willis’s Ernest. Their eyes are lit like Dracula, their sexuality as threatening as it is enticing. What is Lisle if not a vampire empress, pulling you in precisely because she’s a bit spooky?