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April 11, 1991 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-04-11

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The Michigan Daily -Thursday, April 11, 1991 - Page 9

Defending Defending Your
Defending Your
Life
dit. Albert Brooks
by Jen Bilik

Life difficult

Albert Brooks can be truly funny
in his self-appointed persona as an
everyperson riddled with doubt and
insecurity. Like Woody Allen, his
humor stems from a persona that
seems synonymous with the real
person behind the comic creation,
but Brooks' humor falls flat when
'is investment in himself spurs him
to spin the individual into the uni-
versal. In Defending Your Life,
Brooks imagines an afterlife where
people are judged not according to
virtues and sins but upon their inse-
curities and anxietics, a nightmare
scenario for one so afflicted with
self-doubt.
The idea itself isn't so ludicrous,
*and it bears the seeds of comic suc-
cess, but like his little man charac-
ter, it just tries too hard. Brooks of-
ten has the feel of a comedian on a
talk show, after the monologue,
who steps up to chat with the host
and can't stop joking. His routines
seem prefabricated, unable to fit the
impromptu nature of the conversa-
tion so that he seems less a screen-
writer than a scared boy on stage.
Like much failed comedy,
Defending Your Life is character-
ized by the apparentness of its
structure. It's all too easy to see
what Brooks was thinking when he
conceived the script. The trans-
parency of his comic motivation
renders the movie predictable and
contrived. Viewing becomes a pro-
cess of guessing what he'll do next
and, too often, being right.
In his ad-line, Brooks dubs his
movie "the first true story of what
happens after you die," revealing a
self-conscious righteousness that
permeates the script. Death is a tran-
sition from one life to another
where characters must defend their
lives in courts fashioned after
r~,1

Julia that she was once an Arthurian
knight. Dan, simple and insecure,
sees himself as a tribal savage.
Streep's talents are entirely
wasted, underscoring her assertion
that Hollywood provides few good
roles for women, as she does little
more than giggle and glow in smug
self-satisfaction. Brooks provides
no justification for Julia's attrac-
tion to Dan, other than the moralis-
tic nature of the movie that justifies
his cowardice with parental abuse
and good intention. Every joke
Brooks could possibly have thought
up about the afterlife finds its way
into the movie's episodic structure,
yet few are funny because they've
been forced into a preconceived
script.
Brooks' insecurity gets cloying
at times, as in Judgement City's
comedy club where he meets Julia.
The comedian is an eternally bad al-
See DEFENSE, Page 12
_ANARORM
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$2'5DAILY SHOWS BEFORE 6 PM6& ALL DAY TUESDAY'
STUDENT WITH I.D. $3.50

There is hip and there is hip.
Blow Up is hip. Really. I mean, any
film that has sex scenes with photo
equipment, The Yardbirds, surreal-
istic mimes, Verushka, wild parties,
drug use and can still maintain a
good message about the nature of re-
ality must be pretty hip. Blow Up
was made in 1966, which means that
it was made a good two years before
the rest of the world started talking
about those topics. This makes it
doubleplus hip.
What happens: a jaded fashion
photographer (David Henning),
tired with sexual sublimation
through his camera, goes out on the
town to take some casual pictures in
order to get his mind off of the su-

perficiality of his work. He sees
two people (a young, hip, pre-
Weight Watchers Vanessa Redgrave
being one of them) dancing in a park
and takes some pictures of them.
When he gets home and develops the-
pictures he notices something in one
of the photo's corner of one of them.
As he blows the photo up fur- -
ther and further he realizes that the
picture that he took was not at all
the picture that he thought he took.
He goes to investigate, and that's
when things get really good. As he
delves deeper and deeper into the in-
trigue behind the picture, things be-
gin to get stranger and stranger. To
add to the strangeness, Michel-an-
See CAMPUS, Page 12

Albert Brooks as Dan Miller looks concerned playing someone similar to
Brooks' public persona. But wouldn't you standing near a train called the

"Destination Train"? Notice also Rip
corner.
screening rooms. Lawyers call upon
episodes that illustrate their
clients' strengths and faults, while
judges look on before making final
decisions about the next life. The
stupid and cowardly return to earth
to address their fears, while the
brave move on to heightened intel-
ligence in another world. Judgment
City, the way-station where most of
the movie takes place, is an amuse-
ment park of hotels and golf
courses, filled with over-literal vi-
sual and verbal puns.
Everything in Defending Your
Life functions as a vehicle for

Torn's official back in the left
Brooks' overly self-conscious con-
cerns, as if he asked himself about
what happens after we die and spent
the rest'of the time fitting comic
skits into this newly concocted
world view. He sets himself as
normal Joe, Dan Miller, against his
love interest, Julia (Meryl Streep),
a woman whose bravery is character-
ized by an episode where she rescues
her children from a fire and returns
to save the cat. For her bravery, Julia
lives in a better hotel and gets in-
vited to afterlife parties. In the Past
Lives Pavilion, Shirley MacLaine
surfaces as the MC, revealing to

PLLLEAS AND 9ELISANDE

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Cyrano De Bergerac
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Apr. 4 - 6, 11 - 13 at 8 PM;
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Students $5 with ID at
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admission:
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Dance Gallery in concert
Choreography by Alan Lommasson
April 11-13 - 8:00 pm
U-M Dance Building Studio A
1310 N. University Ct.
Tickets in advance at the Michigan
Theater box office, 668-8405,
or at the door.
Sponsored by Kessler & Geer and
Ketelaar Associates, Inc.
\ Made possible in part by a grant from the
= Michigan Council for the Arts

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