There is a lot to love about NBC’s popular television series The Good Place, which premiered in September of 2016. Set in the next world, the show follows the experiences of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) as she adjusts to a utopian eternity designed by an after-life architect named Michael (Ted Danson), but soon discovers she may be there under false pretenses. If this show is your cup of next-world tea, you may enjoy the following DVDs from our collection.
Defending Your Life is the story of a successful businessman, Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) who crashes his car on his 39th birthday and finds himself in an Earth-like afterlife, where he learns his life will be judged. If he can make a successful defense for himself he will be upgraded to a better afterlife, but the deliberations with his lawyer only serve to confound him and make him worry he won’t move up. To top it off he finds himself falling in love with Julia (Meryl Streep) who appears to have lived such a spectacular life that she will certain move up, perhaps leaving him behind.
When the quarterback for the L.A. Rams, Joe Pendelton (Warren Beatty) dies in a bike accident, he goes directly to Heaven, guided along by a helpful guardian angel. The only problem is that he was never supposed to have died in the first place, and the angel made a mistake in bringing him to Heaven. In Heaven Can Wait, (based on the play of the same name by Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller,) Joe returns to Earth, but since he cannot go back to his current body he has to assume the body and life of a person who is just about to die. It turns out the body he returns to inhabit is that of a greedy businessman. Joe must figure out how to proceed in life, love and sports. The 1948 movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan is also based on the same play by Buchman and Miller.
Heart and Souls starts on a San Francisco bus ride at night. Four passengers are on their way to various engagements, but are killed when the bus on which they are riding crashes off an overpass. In a car that nearly collided with the bus before the crash, a woman gives birth to a baby boy, Thomas (played as an adult by Robert Downey, Jr.). The four bus passengers become the boy’s guardian angels and attempt to help him navigate life. When Thomas grows up to become a cunning and unkind businessman, the guardian angels must work together to help him and gain peace for themselves.
In a slightly different tone with a hint of melancholy, the Japanese film After Life (written by Hirokazu Kore-Eda) is set in a processing station for the recently departed. Here, the newly arrived will pick one favorite memory from their life on earth, and will be able to bring that, and nothing more, with them into eternity. There are counselors in this way station who help the new arrivals examine their memories to find the one they love most, and then recreate it for them to take with. Tangles of love and wistfulness add a sober and poetic feel to this film.