Running at about three hours, Meet Joe Black is an hour too long. If you can overlook that, the film is very enjoyable.
Death wants to take a vacation and he’s picked the rich and well-to-do Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) as his guide to the living. Death takes a body from a New Yorker (Brad Pitt) and comes to visit Bill just a few days before Bill’s 65th birthday. Bill finds out that he’s scheduled to be taken by Death. But, Death offers to postpone Bill’s demise for a few days, hours, and minutes if Bill shows Death, who’s now known as Joe Black, around. You see, Joe is bored with his job and he wants to see what it is to be alive.
Bill’s cherished daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani), starts to fall in love with the mysterious Joe. This is much to the dismay of Susan’s father and her current beau Drew (Jake Weber). Drew works closely with Bill - Drew is second in command of Bill’s company.
Meet Joe Black follows three story lines. The first is the love affair between Susan and Joe. This story works, but not as well as it could have. Forlani and Pitt have no screen chemistry whatsoever. Of course, how could they? Pitt is supposed to be a dead guy. The second, which takes up a lot of the screen time, is that of Bill being overthrown as the head of his own broadcasting company. And the third, and most interesting, is the story that follows between Bill and Joe, showing the relationship these two build.
As far as acting goes, Hopkins, as always, is superb. His Bill Parrish reminded me of the character he played in The Edge – smart and likeable. Pitt tries something new and succeeds. At first, Pitt plays a live guy – before Death takes over his body, and this part is like all other parts Pitt has played. Pitt plays the suave guy who picks up women with a wink of the eye. When Death takes over the body of Pitt’s character is when Pitt really does something fun. Pitt plays Joe energetically and most of the time he is hilarious. His movements are toned down and stiff.
Forlani, who I last saw in The Rock, is wonderful. She has a very expressive face and I’d love to see her in more movies. She was a delight to watch on screen.
Worth mentioning is the score by Thomas Newton; it is one of the best I’ve heard this year. Yes, it is a bit overwrought for the film, and at times distracting, but it just sounds good. Listen to it when you see Meet Joe Black.
Also worth mentioning is the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (A Walk in the Clouds). Meet Joe Black is the prettiest picture of the year.
Martin Brest impressed me as a director with his film Midnight Run. His style is to concentrate on characters and I wanted to see if this carried onto Meet Joe Black. He’s done well, though he could have sat down with editors Joe Hutshing and Michael Tronick to shave off 45 minutes from the film and done better. Another suggestion for Brest is to have the actors read their lines more quickly. This sounds like a ridiculous suggestion, but it’s quite relevant for Meet Joe Black. The actors often pause for long periods between lines - which is at first jarring, and second, makes for the long movie that Meet Joe Black is.
Overall, Meet Joe Black is an enjoyable film that is worth the three hours it takes to unfold its story. If you could sit through Titanic, Meet Joe Black shouldn’t be a problem. See Meet Joe Black for the performances of the three leads: Hopkins, Pitt, and Forlani. Also, see it to hear the score by Newton and to see the cinematography by Lubezki. Don’t Miss Meet Joe Black on the big screen.
Edited by Cher Johnson.
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