Besides providing entertainment, movies often teach valuable moral and life lessons through subtle and not so obvious messages. Many films portray finding courage by facing fear and overcoming terrifying obstacles. Not surprisingly, THEFEARMONSTER has a long list of banned movies it doesn't want you to see. Here's one of my favorites
"Defending Your Life" is a romantic comedy fantasy starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep. Brooks plays Daniel, a 40-year old ad executive who dies suddenly in a car accident. Sent to the afterlife, he arrives in Judgement City, a heaven-like waiting area populated by recently deceased who are there to have their life on Earth judged to determine whether they have learned lessons necessary to move on to the next phase of existence and to experience more of what the universe has to offer. Otherwise, their souls will be reincarnated to live another life on Earth to learn lessons they didn't get the first time around.
Judgement City is very cleverly and charmingly portrayed with Earth-like amenities such as all-you-can-eat restaurants serving the best food (with no weight gain), 5-star hotels and comedy clubs.
Daniel's judgement process is presided over by a panel of judges who will determine whether or not he is ready to move on to the next phase of his existence. He has a lawyer who argues his case before the panel as video footage of select days of his life are projected onto a large video screen. With his lawyer's coaching, Daniel must defend his actions shown on the screen.
Now here's the interesting part. The deceased are not judged on the good or evil they did on Earth but whether they were willing to show the courage to face and overcome their fears and take risks ( Remember my post, The Room of 1000 Demons, where enlightenment is gained by facing our fears?). Daniel's attorney points out that people on Earth use so little of their brains that they spend most of their lives functioning on the basis of their fears. These are not risks like bungee jumping or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes but simple things like speaking in front of a group (said to be the most terrifying thing humans do), trying out for a sport, learning a foreign language, or asking a woman to dance (It was my wife who asked ME to dance; that's how we met).
During the process, Daniel meets and falls in love with Julia, played by Meryl Streep, who has lived a perfect life of courage and generosity. Daniel is judged to have failed in overcoming his fears and must return to Earth while Julia is judged worthy to move on.
There is no spoiler alert to tell you how the movie ends other than to say it has a happy ending (half-spoiler alert?). And you'll have to watch it to see how it plays out. I think it's a wonderfully intelligent and thought-provoking movie that illustrates a very important lesson about facing and overcoming fear. I like it so much that I often recommend it to my clients. In future blogs I'll be reviewing other THEFEARMONSTER-banned movies so stay tuned.
Coming Next: VISHNU AND THEFEARMONSTER