Thursday, August 21, 2008
I Am A Meet Joe Black Apologist
I'm a sucker for contemplative, well photographed movies. Meet Joe Black wasn't very entertaining to most people, but I had my eyes glued to the screen for every minute of its three-hour runtime. I could care less that the director, Martin Brest, went on to make Gigli years later. With this cast, this film, he made one wonderful film.
Based on the old play Death Takes A Holiday, as well as the couple film versions since the early 20th century, Meet Joe Black depicts the relationship between an aging, extremely wealthy man named William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), and Death (Brad Pitt). Death comes to take Hopkins during a heart attack, but while in the body of a recently deceased man begins to fall in love with Parrish's daughter, and stays Parrish's "execution."
Cue many wonderful sweeping shots of a youthfully innocent Brad Pitt walking through a mansion, Hopkins prattling off lessons about life, and wonderful shots of Claire Forlani as Susan Parrish, the beautiful daughter. This was before Fight Club, before Ocean's Eleven, where we got to see Brad Pitt look dangerously curious about everything he saw. Death is fascinated by everything he sees in the world of the living, and has a strange fixation for peanut butter.
I can't really put my finger on why I love this movie. I love the performance of Pitt, Hopkins, Forlani, and even Jeffrey Tambor as Parrish's son-in-law. I find the film wonderfully photographed in almost every aspect, especially in HD. The end party scene with fireworks is masterful, and it's hard for me to think that Brest moved on from this and thought Gigli was the next film he needed to make.
Things get a little hectic when you add in Susan's sort-of-fiance, the sale of Parrish's media corporation before his eventual death, and the commentary on the corporate world and what it does to aging professionals, but the central trio of Hopkins, Forlani, and Pitt keep me riveted all the way through.
The idea of Death learning about the world of the living, and about love is just subject matter that interests me. Death, inhabiting the body of an adult, acts like a child, but that smile on Pitt's face is sinister...probably because his job is to take people to their death. It's an odd choice, performing the task of the Grim Reaper and continuing life as it should, or giving it all up for the daughter of a wealthy man. The scenes where Pitt and Hopkins argue over whether or not Hopkins should stop showing Pitt the world and just die are priceless and superbly written.
Meet Joe Black struck the right chord with me in a difficult balance between comedy, romance, mythology, and philosophy, sometimes all in the same scene. It has things I'd love to be able to replicate in a story or a script, and some snapshots I can easily bring to mind the moment I shut my eyes. It's a commitment to watch the thing, three hours isn't easy, but I still find a lot to like in the behemoth of a genre-bender.