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Movie Review: Meet Joe Black

Movie Review: Meet Joe Black

Martin Brest is an American filmmaker, producer, screenwriter, film editor, and actor. Brest was born in the Bronx, New York. He graduated from New York University’s School of the Arts in 1973and from the AFI Conservatory with an M.F.A. degree in 1977. His film debut as a director/writer was with 1979. Brest’s first major hit film was 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop, starring Eddie Murphy.

The film earned well over $200 million at the North American box office. His work on 1992’s Scent of a Woman earned him a Golden Globe for Best Picture, and the film was nominated several Academy Awards. Six years later, Brest released Meet Joe Black, this version was inspired by the Alberto Casella play ‘Death Takes a Holiday’ and the subsequent 1934 film. Meet Joe Black received fairly good reviews but no awards nominations.

Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black is a modern fictional fantasy film which stars Anthony Hopkins as William Parrish, an affluent media mogul in New York City. Mr. Parrish suffers a heart attack on the day before his 65th birthday; although he survives, he senses that his own death is near. Later on that same day his daughter Susan, played by Claire Forlan, meets an attractive young stranger who is played by Brad Pitt.

They meet at a coffee shop and are immediately infatuated with each other. When they finally leave the coffee shop, the stranger is killed and his body is directly occupied by Death.


Death claims he is on a holiday, however, he is also there to warn Parrish that his death is forthcoming. Death comes into the Parrish household masquerading as Joe Black, the gorgeous stranger. While Parrish comprehends Joe’s objectives he allows his family to believe that Joe Black is a company colleague. Susan, the youngest daughter is taken aback to discover the memorable stranger from that morning in the coffee shop, at her family dinner that evening and is instantaneously besieged with desire.

Susan pursues Joe and they engage in an awkward love affair. Unawares to her, is that she is not falling for the young stranger from the coffee shop but for Death himself. In an attempt to extend his life and his daughter’s bliss, William consents to take Joe on an exploration of human life which incorporates parties, meetings, and in the end romance. As long as Joe falls in love, Parrish remains alive; but nothing last forever.

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt shows a compellingly silly side as a not-so-grim Reaper reacting with childlike innocence to sensual pleasures like peanut butter; however, his naiveté doesn’t quite mesh with his flashes of ill temper. The sometimes irrelevant boardroom scenes, which were not properly worked out and lasted less than two minutes were simply squabbles between Death and Parrish’s possible future son-in-law, Jake Weber, and number one man. He is planning a coup behind Parrish’s back. The endless boardroom-meeting scenes detract from the quality of the film, in which everyone puzzles over this eccentric young adviser always at Parrish’s side. There’s also a subplot involving the Parrish’s neglected older daughter Allison, who was played by Marcia Gay Harden, an insecure socialite planning his 65th-birthday bash, which prompts an extended discussion of designer pastries.

Anthony Hopkins

Hopkins is exceedingly graceful and convincing as the poignant media mogul, even when encumbered with impracticable lines like ‘I want you to sing with rapture and dance like a dervish.’ Forlani, who plays his youngest daughter, brings lots of dewy genuineness to the complicated part of a woman coming to grips with understanding the peculiar behaviour of the love of her life.

Harden, who plays the older sister, finds the touching side of a largely buffoonish role of Jeffrey Tambor, who plays her husband and is dependably amusing as her well-meaning executive husband.

Meet Joe Black is an outstanding film and in some ways very underrated. It presents beauty and brilliance in regards to the photography, the sets, the music and the performances. The pairing of Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt was inspiring, on screen together, they worked of each other and you could see the acting chemistry between the two performers; especially in the more comedic moments when they were getting to know each other.

Though death is normally a rather sad issue and the main theme in this movie, the director, threaded the intensity of an inspiring love story between Parrish’s daughter and Death. This resulted in one of the most attractive pairing as well as one of the most erotically deep love scenes.

The film was presented in a more pleasingly filtered outlook than what may have normally occurred. For example, the love scene is done without nudity with close ups on the actors faces all the way through. The striking presentation of the lighting in the film is also fantastic, with a lovely golden glow pouring of the screen and lastly the music is simply wonderful. The mixture of piano and orchestra builds to an uplifting and emotional pull that cements the emotions felt in the film.

Meet Joe Black is a wonderful mixture of comedy, romance and drama and is done exceedingly well. Brad Pitt puts in a good performance as Death; however, it left him almost monotonous at time. This was different from the charismatic and charming Brad that audiences are familiar with and at the end of the film he finds himself making a deeply human choice at the end of the film and then there is Anthony Hopkins. One of the best actors, he demonstrates with his multifaceted variety of emotions in his presentation there is more to him than playing Hannibal. His performance was somewhat reserved and honestly very well done.


My opinion of this film varies. Some would agree that the three hours where too long and if proper editing was done it could have been changed to a brilliantly made two hour romance film. Yes the story was special and emotional, but those moments were almost lost in the ever stretching dialog. There were moments where it seemed this film would take its place in history as one of the best, with scenes from the coffee shop, the young stranger’s death and Joe’s making love for the first time.

All these scenes were done an injustice by the seemingly long stretches and incomplete patches of subplots. Meet Joe Black strives to be a philosophical deliberation on the significance of life, a romance with a celestial aspect, but its often uninspiring talk defeats its higher pretensions. Though this film deals with the issues of death, there is no need for it to take an eternity.



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