Meet Joe Black (1998)

Director Martin Brest
Written by Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade, Bob Goldman
Inspired by works by Alberto Casella

Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Haden, Jeffrey Tambor, Lois Kelly-Miller, June Squibb.

Loosely based on 1934 film Death takes a Holiday, in this film ‘Death’ decides to come to earth, taking the body of a young man recently killed in an accident (Pitt) and asks Billionaire media mogul William ‘Bill’ Parish (Hopkins) to be his ‘guide’. His plan is to ‘take’ Bill on his upcoming 65th birthday. On his stay he develops human connections, such as love, friendship, as well as empathy for the first time.

Once again I review a movie from the 90’s that I have not seen in over twenty years. The only real thing I remembered about this was that it had the exorbitant run time of three hours, and the ‘obvious stunt double scene’ in the first half hour of the movie.

While yes, the movie has a runtime in the same league as ‘Titanic’, it honestly feels like it needed it. The character of ‘Death’ is so unique, the movie needed that time in order for him to grow. There is obviously a debate to whether this film needed to be three hours long. There could absolutely be editing that could be done (notable arcs are the drama at Bill’s business, and the Jamaican lady) but this would do an injustice to what the storytellers were trying to do. I think it needed the three hour runtime to truly give a proper story.

Pitt has proven time and time again he is a brilliant actor, and this is just another shining example of his ability. His version of death starts with a monotone speaking, it feels almost flat and comatose, but that is the point. Death does not understand emotion, and it takes him to both fall in love, and have genuine connected empathy with the people he takes in order for him to grow.

The score from Thomas Newman is exceptional in every way, and is so emotive throughout (how Newman has not yet won an Oscar is just criminal).

Very well worth watching, but if you do, give yourself time to watch it. I didn’t truly appreciate this as a 15 year old when it first was released, but at almost 40, I appreciate it much better.


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