Brad Pitt explores death and the power of love in Meet Joe Black

By The Columbia Chronicle

If you’re in the mood for weird romanticism or a good sadistic laugh, “Meet Joe Black” is the film to see. If not, stay away. The film is long and moves slowly and although it is a decent movie, there is no need to see it on the big screen. It carries a certain amount of romantic predictability with a twist which keeps the viewer interested.

Some scenes are funny and surprising but not enough to keep me from shuffling in my seat. The element of surprise and irony is there but is trapped and lost in the struggle to satisfy a mass audience. Martin Brest, the director/producer known for his direction and production of the 1992 film, “Scent of a Woman” came across his story idea for “Meet Joe Black” from the 1934 film, “Death Takes a Holiday.”

“There was a suggestion in the old movie of what might be a great story, but it was a story that had yet to be discovered. We had to start from scratch because rather than do a remake I wanted to explore an element that sparked my interest,” says Brest.

Screenwriter Ron Osborn, Jeff Renon (both writers for Cupid, Mork & Mindy, Night Court and Moonlighting among others) Kevin Wade (“Goldeneye,” and author of the plays Key Exchange, Mr. & Mrs. and Cruise Control) and Bo Goldman (two time Academy Award winner for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Melvin & Howard), took on the challenge of writing a different version of the screenplay.

This movie is one of the more recent films from Hollywood on the topic of life, death and letting go. William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins ) is a media tycoon who has it all, a loving family, money, and the power to influence others. Then he meets the one he can’t control; Joe Black (Brad Pitt). But Parrish receives an offer from Black that he can’t refuse because of the chance it offers Parrish. Black will prolong Parrish’s life if he allows him to spend a few days with him and his family.

This arrangment creates problems in Parrish’s company and turmoil in his home. When the strange character introduced as Joe Black is brought into Parrish’s life, some close to him worry if Black doesn’t have a secret agenda. Parrish has his own worries when he realizes that his youngest daughter Susan Parrish (Claire Forlani) and Joe Black have fallen in love.

Brad Pitt gives a wonderful performance that allows moviegoers too see what the world looks like to someone who doesn’t know how to act or react to a world that is ordinary to us. Anthony Hopkins gives an equally wonderful performance although the screenwriter didn’t seem to consider any other aspects of his life, besides family and work. Claire Forlani (Susan Parrish) played a convincing role with what she had to work with. Her role seems to have been written as a secondary plot thereby not having much depth but when the story of William Parrish dealing with his death is missing humanity her role also suffers. The character played by Marcia Gay Harden (Allison the older sister) seems to be included only for comic relief. Allison is neurotic and her only concerns in life seem to be the party she is planing for her father’s birthday and her fathers favoritism toward Susan.

The actor’s performances weren’t the problem, it had more to do with the length, nearly three hours. The movie isn’t all bad, there are a few lines that do stick out. For instance there is William Parrish’s conversation with his daughter Susan about love, ” be delirious, happy, love is passion, an obsession, fall head over heels. There’s no sense in living without this. If you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.”