Underrated movie: Defending Your Life

Have you ever seen Defending Your Life? It’s one of those great little movies that didn’t do so well at the box office and then disappears from most peoples’ consciousness, but I just watched it on NetFlix and was reminded of how great it is.

Albert Brooks gets hit by a bus (on his birthday) and is sent to a kind of purgatory, where he is put on trial to determine if he is worthy of ascending to the next plane of existence, or if he will be reincarnated so he can try again. Rip Torn as his not-so-dedicated defense attorney is brilliant. Just imagine him saying the words “Big Bear.”

Hilarious and charming, despite the presence of Meryl Streep, whom I normally can’t stand.

Streep was brilliant in it. I commented further on it in my blog.

Little-Brains aren’t familiar with the film.

One of my all time favorites. I quote from it often.

“Oh, there is no hell. But I hear Los Angeles is getting pretty close.”

“Do you know what precentage of their brain most people use?”
“Take a guess.”
“mmm… 40?”

“6 time! Oh my gah!”

"I coined the phrase ‘all nude’ "

There has never been a scene in a film more joyous than Meryl Streep eating endless shrimp and pasta.

“What’s good here?”

“Everything here is sensational.”

“How are the eggs?”


Isn’t there one bit where Brooks’ character asks about children who’ve died, and Torn’s character says in the wisest and kindest of voices, something about “children don’t have to defend themselves”? I can’t recall exactly, but it makes me cry every time. Anyway, yes, I like this movie and consider it one of my favourite not-well-known gems.

Yes, and teenagers are sent to their own city as they’re too disruptive in the adult one.

And all-you-can eat pasta?

I don’t think I’d want to get on the tram. Sounds like heaven to me.

Still, his first three are uniformly masterpieces. As good as this one is, it’s not a masterpiece; it’s the beginning of Brooks’s slide into mediocrity.

Actually my point was not at all to put down Defending My Life, which is a very good film. But to say, “If you liked this one, be sure you’ve seen his first three, they’re even better.”

For me DYL’s biggest flaw is its unsubtlety; Brooks has examined such issues before, but never so literally. It felt a bit like an amateur allegory. No one could’ve done this particular amateur allegory better, but Brooks is capable of a more well-layered film. Not nearly as eyerolling as the melodrama version, Ship of Fools, or as silly as the gay camp version, Steambath, but not as great as Brooks’s first three films either.

I really enjoyed that movie. It’s a good one.

Subtle it ain’t. In fact it’s a tremendous understatement to call this movie unsubtle. But I agree it’s surprisingly good.

I really like this film.

It’s unsubtle, sure, but it’s also kind of understated, especially Brooks’s performance. His delivery is what makes the following exchanges, which could have fallen flat, very funny to me. (Dialogue paraphrased)

*Meryl: You look really familiar to me.
Albert: Oh, no, you weren’t on the bus, were you?

Albert: Why didn’t you show up yesterday?
Rip: You wouldn’t understand.
Albert: Try me.
**Rip: **I was trapped in a positron loop.
Albert: I don’t understand. *

I have seen it, and I normally don’t like chick flicks, but found it charming. Not something I would go out of my way to watch, but if it comes on I will seriously consider watching it.

This was one of the few movies starrring Meryl Streep that I like.

This movie rocked!

“My 3 percent is swimming!”

I classify this as one of the very good, not great films. It’s not one that would make a list of classics, but it should be watched and is a quality piece of work. Others that I’d classify similarly:

A Few Good Men
The Fugitive
The Hunt for Red October

Isn’t that “I was trapped at the intersection of a fault?”

Told ya I paraphrased.

According to IMDb, not always a reliable source, the exchange goes:

Daniel Miller: Where were you? I’m just curious.
Bob Diamond: I’d tell you, but you wouldn’t understand.
Daniel Miller: Don’t treat me like a moron. Try me.
Bob Diamond: I was trapped near the inner circle of thought.
Daniel Miller: I don’t understand.
Bob Diamond: I told you…

The Past Lives Pavilion scene is a classic.

“What are you?”
“Joan of Arc! What are you?”