From his book Essential Cinema.
Defending Your Life
The first true story of what happens after you die.
In an afterlife resembling the present-day US, people must prove their worth by showing in court how they have demonstrated courage.
From REAL LIFE through at least this film, Albert Brooks' movies depict a kind of post-Altamont fallout in which the Boomer ethos takes hold but only corrupts the status quo instead of overthrowing it. Me Generation solipsism births REAL LIFE's capitalistic and fame-seeking selling of the self for air-time. MODERN ROMANCE attempts to work out its titular concept by scrutinizing how that same narcissism and a social awareness informed by simple-minded emotional utopias sold on TV affects the unpredictability and demands of a relationship. LOST IN AMERICA flat-out rewrites Boomer touchstone EASY RIDER from a symbol of generational promise to the final word on its failure to launch.
DEFENDING YOUR LIFE suggests that even the afterlife isn't safe from Boomer-fication.…
Directed by, written by, produced by, marketed by, starring and presumably watched by Albert Brooks (he’s a busy man), Defending Your Life is a sweet, light-hearted comedy that doesn’t outstay its welcome too much but lacks both the laughs and the emotional pull to really make the most of its fantastic concept.
Brooks (Drive) plays Daniel Miller, a man who wakes up in Heaven’s “waiting area” after being killed in a car accident on his 40th birthday. Initially bemused by his surroundings, Daniel discovers that he must “defend” his life in order…
My favourite depiction of the afterlife, as a rather drab bureaucratic place of sensual delight mingled with baffling lack of pertinent detail. It's a secular person's dream! Brooks and Streep are at their best; their romance is unfussy, cleverly played, and deeply affecting. With every year that passes, Brooks' work looks better and better.
#26 of the Sci-Fi Project
I've always liked Albert Brooks but Defending Your Life is much like Brooks. I liked it but I didn't love it. His humour doesn't quite click with me. It's close but not quite. Defending Your Life is an ingenious idea. An afterlife where you have to explain your choices in life. It's actually a terrifying concept. I started thinking about my own decisions. Do I give money to charity because it's the right thing to do or am I just covering my bases? I like to think it's the former but I'd hate to be sat there and analysed like this. Did I get married because I love my wife or because I was scared of being alone? So many choices, so many decisions. I've not always made good decisions. And if you are examined like this will there be enough 'good' in you? Jesus...look what you've done to my mind Albert!
Charming comedy with a completely unique take on the after-life. Anchored by great performances and an inventive script, the film is consistently engaging. There is a distinctly bittersweet tone which hangs over many scenes, and this adds a welcome sense of dramatic weight to the central relationship.
Defending Your Life is an over-looked, early 90's gem.
I loved Defending Your Life before I knew how much Jonathan Rosenbaum loves it also. I love it, I love it, I love it.
Others might decry the "Hollywood ending," but keep in mind that Bob Diamond (Rip Torn, perfect) estimates that Daniel (Brooks) has returned to Earth from Judgement City anywhere between 20 and 30 times. Still more might complain about a slower comedic pace. As a screenwriter, Brooks strikes the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy, and those who do not agree must never have been afraid of anything in their lives. Daniel has failed so many times before, only to break through once and for all. Such is the human condition — prone to inaction out of fear, broken down by an inexorable, "effortless" love. Defending Your Life is the first screenplay I would read as inspiration if I ever had to write a movie. Easily my all-time favorite romantic comedy.
You know what was hilarious in 1991? AIDS!
No but this is a fine movie. It was a little slow, and not all the jokes landed, but Streep is unbelievably charming and Albert Brooks does find some humor in the idea of a bureaucratic purgatory.
“When you use more than five percent of your brain, you don’t want to be on Earth, believe me”, tells Bob Diamond (played by Rip Torn) to Daniel Miller (played by Albert Brooks) in one scene. It’s an amusing line. In the same scene, he also tells him that most people on Earth use only 3% of their brains and that this 3% is reserved for dealing with fear on a daily basis. All kinds of fear. And because of this, he calls them “little brains” behind their backs. This is one of those movies that makes me feel happy every time I see it. Directed and written by Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life feels like just any other Albert…
Film 25/30 of the "Scavenger Hunt #4" Challenge!
My Scavenger Hunt #4 List.
Item 26. A film featuring Heaven!
the effortless engaging sensibilities of this film is satisfactorily a breath of fresh air amidst the curiously stricken first part. even today, this may prove the freeing distinction that technology cannot easily bring - in which, limbo or Judgment City is a corporation infused with its own justice system; highly ingenious that often times, a snag to perceive it as heaven or hell is promptly introduced and short and sweet scenes. the main stronghold of Defending Your Life is the almost rigorous and fantastical journey of the lead male character through, as said, the form of justice system easily…
"You wouldn't understand".
Isn’t it great when a movie is just as good as you remember?
The best thing is Meryl Streep — she effortlessly makes you believe anyone could instantly and completely fall in love with her.
Rip Torn is also the best.
The music is the best, too.
Albert Brooks' filmography, both as an actor and as a writer/director, is terribly underrated. Like a mainstream Woody Allen, Brooks is skilled with theme and interweaving it with plot and character arcs. He lacks Allen's subtlety, but he makes up for it here with sharp wit and an inventive premise. Michael Gore's score is gorgeous and Meryl Streep delivers another sterling performance in an underwritten role.
If I were teaching a Beginning Screenwriting class, this would be the first film I showed. It lays out structure cleanly and obviously. Too obvious? Maybe. But not for the layperson. And the audience is who we make movies for.
I loved the hell out of this movie. Inventive and charming, and Albert Brooks is adorable forever.
Albert Brooks' Defending Your Life relies on romantic comedy formula and early-90's filmic beats while infusing his own comedic sensibilities. The premise itself is funny and the jokes relating to this purgatorial place continue to delight throughout the film. Meryl Streep plays a tremendously sweet Julia, making the audience fall for her as Daniel does. Brooks though isn't quite romantic leading man material, especially given Julia is intrigued by exchanged looks and is quick to fall in love. His banter and charm works, but anything involving physicality just doesn't feel within his range. His writing, while relying on familiar rhythms of similar films of the era, is more substantive and philosophical than these same films, which along with Brooks' cleverness and wit, provides idiosyncrasy to the genre.
I hadn't seen this movie for over 20 years but have fond memories of watching it with my grandparents when it was on HBO in the early 1990's.
The movie is funny but I wouldn't call it a comedy. It is just as much sci-fi, drama, fantasy and a love story as it is a comedy. None of these genres hit you in the face, they are all very subtle.
Everything in Defending your life seems familiar and even though there are no twists and turns in the movie it keeps your attention and makes you think about it long after it is over. The strongest thing the movie did for me is to give me the motivation to evaluate my life and makes me want to be a better person.
My top 10%.
This is my favorite 10% of all the films I've seen. It only took 6 months of…
Taken from the appendix of Rosenbaum's 2004 book Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons. Additional titles at the…