Rated PG-13 for an accident scene, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Directed By: Martin Brest
Written By: John Osborn and Jeff Reno
Staring: Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jeffrey Tambor
Yes. Meet Joe Black is a looooooooooooong film. Long especially when reflecting it’s topic matter, but it is a good enough movie that the length is forgivable and at times, even almost comforting. Though the idea that time is imminent, that there is only so much left, both for William Parrish and for Death himself makes the tempo of the story take each stride of it’s unveiling with an unforced grace that allows the actors to portray their character’s in a way that is more attune to theatre than film, but in the calculated pacing of Meet Joe Black it seems fitting for the unorthodox structure and performances.
William Parrish, the superhero of employers and businessmen extraordinaire, finds himself fighting chest pains and ill feelings. His sixty-fifth birthday is nearing. An older man, he realizes he may be coming to his end. Quite literally, Death is waiting for Parrish in his library…. in the form of a mans body. Though he is truly Death, he looks more like an angel with his pure face, golden blond hair, and seemingly perfect physique. Death introduces himself as Joe Black, and tells Parrish he wishes to experience life on this mortal form before he takes Parrish to his final resting place. In 1934′s Death Takes a Holiday this ideal was first explored, though a very different film. Director Martin Brest (Scent Of A Woman), adds in an unsuspecting romance Joe and Susan (ClaireForlani), complicating matters even further.
The interludes of Sir Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt is where Meet Joe Black finds it’s magic. A beautiful score by Thomas Newman plays in the back round giving center stage to these two brilliant actors, extenuating the enchantment of their performances. The subtle nuances between them is invigorating and resonates on a very genuine level. The character of William Parrish is enigmatic, his life seeming so extraordinary already makes him intriguing, but played by Hopkins there is a depth added that gives the character a real textured feel. Pitt’s performance as “Death” contains two conflicting sides. There is a childlike innocence to his face, but also his character experiencing new things, but below is a darkness and a place where he exudes a feeling of terror. Pitt bears this contrast well, and makes “Death” not only likable, but even at times charming even though his inherent nature is dark and supernatural.
When the relationships between the father, the youngest daughter, and Death begins to intermingle, and Death learns something about human nature he didn’t understand before the simple vacation becomes even more tangled. Though an eventual romance does develop between Forlani and Pitt, the focus of the film doesn’t stray away from Parrish’s impending doom. Though he loves both his daughters (the other Marcia Gay Harden) he is deeply attached to Susan. The sorrow and melancholy build up to the end is true torture.
Meet Joe Black is doomed from the start. The character of Susan falls in love with death and loses her father, the apple of her eye, to the very man she loves. The tale has tragedy written all over it, and within the first five minutes you pretty much know how it’s going to end. In this case the film is about the journey, and the journey is worth taking. There are levels of this story that are completely self indulgent, but I personally enjoy those indulgences. It’s simply a good story, told well, with interesting characters and amazing performances that really explore relationships and love, and maybe even the meaning of life. Don’t be turned off by the length and just go see this movie. It’s worth it.