In a career full of great performances, our favorite Goldie Hawn movie is probably Death Becomes Her. If you’ve never seen it, then go see it immediately, not just for Goldie Hawn‘s performance but also because it’s probably one of the best comedy movies ever made if you have a dark sense of humor.
If, though, for whatever reason, you stubbornly refuse to watch the film, that’s fine by us. We can describe what happens, so be warned there are spoilers ahead. Part comedy, part horror movie, Death Becomes Her tells the story of two narcissists, the actor Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) and author Helen Sharp (Hawn).
The pair compete for everything, but when Sharp seemingly unlocks the secret to eternal youth, Ashton will stop at nothing to get her hands on the formula. But all that glitters is not gold, and it soon becomes clear that there are downsides to living forever, and the whole thing turns into something so ghoulishly delightful, it’s one of the best body horror movies.
Ultimately, the film ends with Sharp and Ashton trapped seemingly forever in immortal, ageless bodies that are slowly rotting, and the pair keep each other looking ‘fresh’ using various mortician’s tricks. That is until they trip and fall down some stairs, ending up as sentient body parts scattered all over a sidewalk.
It’s a fine ending, but according to Hawn, a much better resolution was cut from the film because it didn’t test well with audiences. In this alternate cut, both Sharp and Ashton would have maintained their youth and looks but would have become deflated and bored with eternal life. Looking for something to do, they’d have hunted down their shared ex-husband, Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis).
Upon finding him, they’d have seen that while he’d aged, he had lived life to its fullest, and as the pair watched him spend his final moments with the real love of his life. Hawn preferred this ending, believing that it reinforced the film’s warning about the dangers of putting the superficial above authentic experience.
“It didn’t test as well; there was another ending that was put on, rewritten, and we actually reshot it,” Hawn explained in a behind-the-scenes featurette. “And, unfortunately, it wasn’t an up-funny ending. It didn’t have the punch the rest of the movie had, it wasn’t special effects and wild and crazy, and people [were left] just sort of deflated.”
Interestingly, Streep actually disagrees with her co-star. “We had one ending for this movie that was sort of ruminative, very thoughtful, moralistic, and we junked it,” she told Bobbie Wygant. “We went back and shot another complete ending, which is the one you see.”
“I love this ending,” she continued. “It’s exactly where you want to take this insane fairytale of vanity. You know, you just want to blast it apart.”
We actually agree with Hawn, to be honest. There’s a sadness to Death Becomes Her that’s lost in the third act as it becomes more farcical, which is a shame. Although we won’t lie, it’s kind of cathartic to see Ashton and Sharp brought so low by the end of the film.