Defending Your Life (1991)

PG | 111 mins | Comedy-drama, Fantasy, Romance | 22 March 1991

Director:

Albert Brooks

Writer:

Albert Brooks

Producer:

Michael Grillo

Cinematographer:

Allen Daviau

Editor:

David Finfer

Production Designer:

Ida Random

Production Company:

Geffen Film Company
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HISTORY

On 18 May 1988, Var reported that writer-director-actor Albert Brooks would start production that fall on a film for the Geffen Film Company. However, a year and a half passed before Var announced, on 15 Nov 1989, that actress Meryl Streep had been cast in Defending Your Life. Various contemporary sources, including 9 Dec 1989 Screen International and Jan 1990 Box news briefs, noted Brooks’s tendency to keep details about his film projects under wraps.
       Principal photography began 12 Feb 1990 in Los Angeles, CA. A 16 May 1990 DV article indicated that cast and crew spent one week shooting in Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, CA. The permitting process irked the filmmakers, who did not agree with the stipulation to give onscreen credit to Orange County, the permit-granting authority. Warner Bros., set to release the picture, agreed to adhere to the credit, “under protest.”
       Defending Your Life received mixed reviews. Some critics appreciated Brooks’s light-hearted comic turn, while others were unimpressed with the acerbic comic’s rather bland take on the afterlife.
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “The producers wish to thank The State of California, The County of Orange, and The City and County of Los Angeles for their cooperation in this production. Special thanks to Paul Slansky for his invaluable ... More Less

On 18 May 1988, Var reported that writer-director-actor Albert Brooks would start production that fall on a film for the Geffen Film Company. However, a year and a half passed before Var announced, on 15 Nov 1989, that actress Meryl Streep had been cast in Defending Your Life. Various contemporary sources, including 9 Dec 1989 Screen International and Jan 1990 Box news briefs, noted Brooks’s tendency to keep details about his film projects under wraps.
       Principal photography began 12 Feb 1990 in Los Angeles, CA. A 16 May 1990 DV article indicated that cast and crew spent one week shooting in Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, CA. The permitting process irked the filmmakers, who did not agree with the stipulation to give onscreen credit to Orange County, the permit-granting authority. Warner Bros., set to release the picture, agreed to adhere to the credit, “under protest.”
       Defending Your Life received mixed reviews. Some critics appreciated Brooks’s light-hearted comic turn, while others were unimpressed with the acerbic comic’s rather bland take on the afterlife.
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “The producers wish to thank The State of California, The County of Orange, and The City and County of Los Angeles for their cooperation in this production. Special thanks to Paul Slansky for his invaluable support.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Jan 1990.
---
Daily Variety
16 May 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1991
p. 10, 24.
Los Angeles Times
22 Mar 1991
Section F, p. 6.
New York Times
22 Mar 1991
Section C, p. 12.
Screen International
9 Dec 1989.
---
Variety
18 May 1988
p. 6.
Variety
15 Nov 1989.
---
Variety
18 Mar 1991
p. 83.
WSJ
21 Mar 1991.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d 2d asst dir
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Still photog
Video services
Panaglide op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Lead person
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prod illustrator
Set des
Const coord
Const foreman
Standby painter
Greens
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
MUSIC
Mus scoring mixer
Mus ed
SOUND
Supv sd ed
ADR ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Boom op
Rerecording mixer
Rerecording mixer
Rerecording mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Titles and opticals
Visual eff
Visual eff supv, Dream Quest Images
Visual eff prod, Dream Quest Images
Opt supv, Dream Quest Images
Model supv, Dream Quest Images
Motion control supv, Dream Quest Images
Motion control supv, Dream Quest Images
Matte artist, Dream Quest Images
Matte artist, Dream Quest Images
Blue screen tech, Dream Quest Images
Electronics supv, Dream Quest Images
Visual eff ed, Dream Quest Images
Anim supv, Dream Quest Images
Visual eff artist, Dream Quest Images
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Ms. Streep's hair & makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Scr supv
Scr supv
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst to Mr. Brooks
Asst to Mr. Grillo
Asst to Mr. Nanas
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Tram coord
Tram consultant
Unit pub
Craft service
Casting asst
Extras casting
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
ANIMATION
Anim supv, Dream Quest Images
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Something's Coming," music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, performed by Barbra Streisand, courtesy of CBS Records Music Licensing Department
"That's Life," written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon
"Misty," written by Erroll Garner.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 March 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 March 1991
Production Date:
began 12 February 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Geffen Pictures
Copyright Date:
21 June 1991
Copyright Number:
PA526654
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
111
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30916
SYNOPSIS

At an advertising agency in Los Angeles, California, chief executive Daniel Miller celebrates his birthday with associates. That afternoon, he buys a luxury car. Driving home, he mindlessly swerves into the path of an oncoming bus. Moments later, Daniel finds himself rolling along a nondescript corridor in a wheelchair, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. An orderly escorts Daniel onto a tram filled with elderly people. As the tram departs from the station, a woman welcomes the weary travelers to “Judgment City,” where they will spend the next five days. The tram stops at a hotel, and Daniel is shown to his room. After the concierge points out the room’s amenities, Daniel collapses onto the bed and falls asleep. The next morning, he is awakened by a phone call from Bob Diamond, a defense attorney, who asks him to come to his office so they can prepare for Daniel’s “examination.” Daniel dons a white garment, before boarding a tram headed downtown. En route, an old woman marvels at his youthful appearance and asks how he died. Daniel states that he was in a car accident. When he meets Bob Diamond, he asks if he is in heaven. The attorney laughs and explains that Daniel is “between” lives. Having died, he must defend his past life, after which, judges will decide if he can move forward to exist in the greater universe. Daniel needs to demonstrate that he can live without fear guiding his decisions. If he fails to make his case, he will return to another life on Earth. Daniel wonders if he has been in this situation before, and Bob suggests he has endured nearly twenty trials. Over ... +


At an advertising agency in Los Angeles, California, chief executive Daniel Miller celebrates his birthday with associates. That afternoon, he buys a luxury car. Driving home, he mindlessly swerves into the path of an oncoming bus. Moments later, Daniel finds himself rolling along a nondescript corridor in a wheelchair, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. An orderly escorts Daniel onto a tram filled with elderly people. As the tram departs from the station, a woman welcomes the weary travelers to “Judgment City,” where they will spend the next five days. The tram stops at a hotel, and Daniel is shown to his room. After the concierge points out the room’s amenities, Daniel collapses onto the bed and falls asleep. The next morning, he is awakened by a phone call from Bob Diamond, a defense attorney, who asks him to come to his office so they can prepare for Daniel’s “examination.” Daniel dons a white garment, before boarding a tram headed downtown. En route, an old woman marvels at his youthful appearance and asks how he died. Daniel states that he was in a car accident. When he meets Bob Diamond, he asks if he is in heaven. The attorney laughs and explains that Daniel is “between” lives. Having died, he must defend his past life, after which, judges will decide if he can move forward to exist in the greater universe. Daniel needs to demonstrate that he can live without fear guiding his decisions. If he fails to make his case, he will return to another life on Earth. Daniel wonders if he has been in this situation before, and Bob suggests he has endured nearly twenty trials. Over lunch, the attorney tries to assess if his client was generous during his lifetime, but Daniel avoids answering directly. That night, Daniel goes to a comedy club, where he meets Julia, the only other non-septuagenarian in the room. Later, they walk around the hotel grounds, and Daniel learns that the kind-hearted Julia was married and had two children. She expresses optimism about her trial, while Daniel frets about his. The next day, Daniel describes his encounter with Julia to Bob. When they enter the courtroom, Bob brusquely acknowledges prosecutor Lena Foster. Two presiding judges explain that scenes from Daniel’s life will appear on a movie screen, before inviting Lena to make her opening remarks. The sharp-witted prosecutor states her intention to prove that Daniel remains transfixed by fear. She submits as evidence a scene from his childhood, when Daniel refused to fight the school bully who was teasing him. Bob argues that Daniel demonstrated “restraint,” but Lena scoffs and rolls her eyes. Another scene shows Daniel covering for a school friend who forgot his homework. Bob admires the altruistic act, but Lena points out that when Daniel later told his father the truth, the other boy ended up getting expelled from school. After court, Daniel notes Lena’s tenacity, but Bob assures him they had a great first day. The next morning, Daniel learns that a man named Dick Stanley will be his defender. He asks what happened to Bob Diamond, but Dick advises him not to worry, claiming expert knowledge of Daniel’s case. Lena begins by condemning Daniel’s risk-averse nature. She shows him turning down an opportunity to invest $10,000 in an undervalued consumer electronics stock, and cites a moment in Daniel’s career when he failed to negotiate a higher salary, even though he had promised his wife he would not settle for the first compensation package offered. Lena asserts that fear held Daniel back, each time. Daniel seeks counsel from Dick Stanley, but the lawyer has nothing to say. The day concludes with a montage of Daniel’s lifetime of “misjudgments.” Afterward, Daniel runs into Julia in the hallway, and the two make a date to go to the Past Lives Pavilion. There, Julia learns that she was once Prince Valiant, while Daniel watches his former self, a savanna native, fleeing from a lion. At the end of the night, Daniel and Julia kiss. The next day, Bob Diamond returns to the courtroom. Daniel is relieved, until Lena opens with an incriminating scene of him having an anxiety attack prior to speaking before a large audience. Although a friend pushes him onstage, Daniel does not deliver the speech due to an emergency that interrupts the event. Lena argues that if had Daniel returned to give his speech, his career would have taken a favorable turn. Undeterred, Bob counters with a scene of Daniel suffering a snowmobile accident. He points out that his client fearlessly trekked through the snow with a broken leg, but Lena denounces the action as nothing more than Daniel’s survival instinct. At the end of the day, Daniel stops by Julia’s courtroom, amazed by the heroic acts unfolding on her movie screen. She suggests they have dinner at a fine restaurant, but in the middle of their meal, Daniel notices prosecutor Lena Foster at a nearby table and insists they leave. Laughing, Julia tells him not to be so paranoid. After dinner, she invites him to spend the night with her, but Daniel resists, claiming he does not want her to judge him. He takes the tram back to his hotel, where he immediately calls Julia and leaves a message declaring his love for her. The next day, Bob and Lena present their final arguments. Lena shows the scene from the previous night, and asks Daniel why he refused Julia’s invitation. Daniel confesses he was afraid. Bob attempts to frame Daniel’s decision as “thoughtful,” but the judges decide that Daniel must return to Earth. As his tram departs, Julia calls to him from her tram, which is headed to another part of the universe. Overcome with emotion, Daniel escapes from his seat and runs to Julia’s tram, clinging to the vehicle as it gathers speed. Back in the courtroom, Lena, Bob, and the two judges watch on the viewing screen, and agree that Daniel belongs with Julia. The tram doors open, and he falls into her arms. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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