Defending Your Life is an inventive and mild bit of whimsy from Albert Brooks. The former standup comedian has a little fun with the Liliom idea of being judged in a fanciful afterlife, but he doesn’t carry his conceit nearly far enough.
Brooks plays his familiar role of a neurotic, warm-hearted, insecure, bull-headed, upper-middle class mensch who, in the opening reel, dies after crashing his showroom-fresh BMW smack into a bus. The unlucky fellow instantly finds himself being whisked off by tram to Judgment City, a white-bread sort of resort community in which a prosecutor and defender present scenes from the life of the deceased to two judges.
The victim is forced to watch particularly embarrassing moments from his life while listening to a torrent of vilification from the prosecutor (Lee Grant) and just a measure of defence from his cheerleader (Rip Torn). Lending all of this some meaning is Meryl Streep, the dream woman who would be the love his life if only they weren’t dead.