Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

When Death comes for you, mercifully he will be quick. When Death comes for Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), he takes forever. Was it arrogance that made Martin Brest decide that Brad Pitt, acting like a zombie, deserves three hours of your time? Or madness? Death is on holiday. Or so he says. He picks up a body in the street and appears at Bill's New York mansion and introduces himself. He seems to know everything about Parrish, a media tycoon with a strong ethical sense, a dead wife and two daughters, Allison (Marcia Gay Harden), a fussy worrier, and Susan (Claire Forlani), his favourite, a doctor. Death takes a fancy to Susan as well, which worries her dad no end.

The deal is that Death will hang around for a while. After all, he's on holiday. When the time comes, he'll take Bill and that will be that. Meanwhile, he's going to stay close, even sit in on board meetings and find out who is plotting to take over the company. Bill introduces him as Joe Black. Everyone is intrigued, perplexed and suspicious, although no one suggests that finally Bill has come out of the closet, despite Joe's blond good looks and quiet, seductive nature.

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What's he doing there? Why does he treat food like he's never tasted it before? When will Susan end her relationship with creepy Drew (Jake Weber), the ambitious, young executive at Parrish's right hand, and start unbuttoning Joe's white evening shirt? How long will it take before anything interesting happens?

How long will it take before ANYTHING happens? The pace of the film would not startle a snail. Every scene is stretched beyond its limit. And then some. Although slow motion is not used, it feels the norm. Pitt plays Joe like a man coming out of a coma. Forlani is all eyes and a mouth that walks by itself. Hopkins appears to be the only living person. Death is all-knowing and yet Joe can't kiss, hasn't a clue, not that Susan cares, she wants a dummy with a good bod. Is Death supposed to have feelings? The logic of this fantasy is upside down. Why's Death on hols? What's the point? Why look like Brad and not have the charm, or the patter. Joe is a boring guy. Perhaps that's the message. Death is dull. Nice one, Martin! Too subtle for your average moviegoer, alas.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Death takes a holiday.
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Director: Martin Brest

Writer: Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade, Bo Goldman

Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Tambor, David S. Howard, Lois Kelly-Miller, Jahnni St. John, Richard Clarke, Marylouise Burke

Year: 1998

Runtime: 181 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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