Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black may be my favourite romantic movie. Martin Brest deserves a statue(tte) for delivering such a poignant, touching movie. I have seen it at least 4 times and I'm still not tired of it. Granted, I've seen Back To The Future and The Goonies many more times, but those movies are fun entertainment. Meet Joe Black on the other hand is an emotional rollercoaster. It literally drains me, so I can't see it every week or month.

The story, you ask? Bill Parrish, a wealthy entrepreneur, gets a visit from a handsome stranger called Joe. Turns out Joe is dead himself, eager for a vacation. If Bill shows Joe the world, Bill will get some "extra time" (for he is about to die).

Joe is played by the reliable Brad Pitt. I admit(t) I had some doubts about Mr. Pitt's acting chops in the past. Back in the 90's, he was a dreamy posterboy who stole many a young girl's heart. Envious, I was. But movie after movie, he truly shows what he's made of. He's the funniest guy in Ocean's Eleven, he's hilarious in Snatch, he's powerful in Legends Of The Fall etc. Truth to be told, I haven't seen some of his most acclaimed performances, such as Seven, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button or 12 Monkeys.
But Meet Joe Black is his finest hour. He's incredibly convincing as the unknowing, uncertain, naive personification of The Grim Reaper. I love the scene in which he talks in slang with a Jamaican woman. It's perfect and very sweet (if a little sad).

Anthony Hopkins plays Bill Parrish and he's just as awesome. Hopkins is without a doubt one of the greatest living actors, Oscar-worthy in every movie. Watch him "taste the cake" and show he does care. Watch him carefully remove a tear when he's reminiscing about his late wife. Watching Hopkins, just like Sean Penn in Milk, is better than going to acting school. The man is wonderful.

The supporting cast is fine as well. Claire Forlani - as Bill Parrish's youngest daughter - sadly never fully realised her potential, but proves she's got a lot going for her. If you allow me to be sexist for just a little while : mention must go to her stunning eyes. Don't forget Marcia Gay Harden (as the older daughter) and Jeffrey Tambor (as Bill's son-in-law) : they all deliver. Except for that rapscallion Drew, be gone with him. But hey, he's supposed to be the nemesis, so an outstanding job by actor Jack Weber. We're supposed to dislike him.

There are numerous favourite bits : Joe trying out peanut butter (I can relate to peanut butter cravings!), Joe tasting the "delicious cookies", Dr. Phil-lookalike Jeffrey Tambor confessing his sins, Marcia Gay Harden knowing she's not her father's favourite (and being a good sport about it) ...

Some critics called the movie a drag, because the running time is a hefty 3 hours (179 minutes, to be exact). I wish it was 6 hours, or more. The slow pacing makes it all the more beautiful. Director Brest takes a lot of time to introduce and sketch his characters. We get to know them, and as such, care for them. All directors should apply this working method.

Meet Joe Black is a true triumph. See it today.

Julian De Backer, 21 September 2010