Just finished a revelatory chronological viewing, over several days, of the seven features written (or co-written), starring and directed by…
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.…
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.
Why do I waste so much time watching bad movies when things like this exist?
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…
I really should hate this movie. It's a high concept comedy, shot in an unremarkable style, designed as a showcase for one man's comedic sensibilities, that turns poignant at the end. I just described every single Adam Sandler or Kevin James film. But this is an Albert Brooks film. Rather than using a mere 3% of its brain, this film uses the whole damn thing. It's funny, it's thoughtful and it's also rather romantic. We shouldn't buy how quickly Meryl Streep falls for Brooks, but thanks to their performances and the filmmaking, we get it. We are in love too. This film shouldn't work, but it does! It leaves me with all sorts of warm, optimistic, hopeful feelings. It makes the fear go away.
Somewhere between 'Lost in America' and this, Brooks seems to have lost his cynicism. With that, he lost a ton of bite and comedy, but he gained a beautiful sense of romance and emotion.
Not nearly as funny as his previous pictures, but often extraordinarily moving. This is a film about seizing the day, a subject which can often come off as trite and obvious, but Brooks' approach is so low key that, even as he spells out his message directly to the camera, it still feels like it's sneaking up on you.
He is helped immeasurably by his casting of Meryl Streep as his love interest, because who wouldn't fall in love with her, but they have absolutely fantastic chemistry.
A very sweet Albert Brooks movie, but doesn't reach the highs of Mother. It takes a deep concept and does a decent job of keeping it light. Which is something The Frighteners a few years later would fail to do with Micheal J Fox. I also like that this is less focused on 'Hey I'm a writer Hollywood type', which seems to be the type-casting Albert Brooks did to himself.
Brooks playing softball with some hard concepts. This is the movie equivalent to the album where the previously abrasive, anti-establishment rocker starts to hide behind studio sheen and melodic MOR noodling. And, anyway, Groundhog Day would mine the whole westernized buddhist thing for more pathos and more laughs.
Courtroom scenes in non-courtroom dramas are one of my biggest pet peeves. Turns out this also applies to supernatural courts that work in no way like earthbound ones. Love how gross all the supposedly delicious food looks. Single greatest laugh line: "I coined the phrase 'All Nude'."
As a romantic comedy, "Defending Your Life" is amusing enough, and Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep have the chemistry to make their fast-tracked courtship believable. As a high-concept examination of the afterlife, the film is a letdown, squandering its intriguing setup by not following any of its possible pathways to something deeper or more thoughtful. "Defending Your Life" could've been an insightful take on the purpose of being alive in the universe, yet settles for passable fluff.
One of my favorites. Maybe in the top ten.
Saved this Brooks for the end of my run through as I assumed it would prove to be the last great movie he directed. In my esteemed opinion, this is actually the worst Brooks has to offer, marking his departure into the land of high concept, marketable 90's comedy, but not featuring the self-flagellation of The Muse, nor the consistent gags and quotable moments of Mother.
What it does have is a new favorite Meryl Streep performance and some good chemistry between her and Brooks, but nothing else really /:
Like if Woody Allen decided he wanted everyone to like him. Beautiful.
This is literally one of my favorite movies of all time I love it so much and it's so underrated
Complete list. :-(
Found these lists (twelve total which I've compiled) a couple years back and they slowly became my bible for weird…