Death, who takes the form of a young man, asks a media mogul to act as a guide to teach him about life on Earth and in the process he falls in love with his. Pitt's Joe Black is really the Grim Reaper in temporary possession of the body of a blond Adonis; he wants to learn what the big deal is about. Meet Joe Black Script taken from a transcript of the screenplay and/or the Brad I like that. If music were the food of love, play on. I'm going out of my mind. .. I'll watch. - Watch me do what? - Make rounds and examine back-to-back patients.
Susan is confused by the appearance of Joe, believing him to be the young man from the coffee shop, but eventually falls deeply in love with him. Joe is now under the influence of human desires and becomes attracted to her as well. After they make love, Joe asks Susan, "What do we do now? As his last birthday arrives, Bill appeals to Joe to recognize the meaning of true love and all it encompasses, especially honesty and sacrifice.
Joe comes to understand that he must set aside his own desire and allow Susan to live her life. He also helps Bill regain control of his company, exposing Drew's underhanded business dealings to the board by claiming to be an agent of the Internal Revenue Service and threatening to put Drew in jail. At the party Bill makes his peace with his daughters.
Susan tells Joe that she has loved him ever since that day in the coffee shop. Joe realises that Susan loves the unknown man, not him, and the realization crushes him slightly. Mastering his emotions powerfully he balks at telling Susan who he really is, although she seems to intuit his true identity. Struggling to comprehend the enormity of the situation, Susan cannot label Joe as Death.
She says finally, "You're. He promises her "you will always have what you found in the coffee shop. Fireworks explode in the distance while Susan watches Joe and her father walk out of view. Susan is stunned as "Joe" reappears alone, bewildered, this time as the young man from the coffee shop.
This is crazy because watching it with any sort of emotional distance reveals that it's super repetitive as Anthony Hopkins says goodbye to one person after another. That shit worked for me.
Some movies just hit us in the right way at the right time. I knew that about myself in and I know it still today.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
I won't defend Meet Joe Black as a great film. I won't even defend it as an underrated one, as I recognize that everyone's reasons for disliking the movie are completely valid. But the movie offered me something I needed on that weekday afternoon and continues to offer me something I need today.
It is a movie that is not sad about death or loss. It's a movie that says living a good life is its own reward, and when the time finally comes to leave that has to be enough. Of course, it helps that Anthony Hopkins' character, a media tycoon named Bill Parrish, is a billionaire. Living a "good life" comes more easily to those with all the fuck you money in the world. This is an aspect of the movie I struggled with for a long time, because for all its universal messages about dying I felt like it completely removed itself from the real world by focusing on an incredibly wealthy and powerful family planning an incredibly huge and extravagant party.
But it comes in part, I think, from the fact that Martin Brest's screenplay is an adaptation of the film Death Takes a Holiday, in which Frederic March plays Death taking over the body of a nobleman. It's a movie about a royal family, and clearly Brest chose to suggest that the Ted Turner-like media tycoon of his version is the American equivalent of royalty.
Or maybe it's a choice driven by plot; would Death now Brad Pitt want to hang out on Earth for a week if he came across a family crammed into a two-bedroom apartment?
Maybe he just wanted to live the good life for a few days. But what it really comes down to, I think -- and the reading that makes me most comfortable with what the film is about -- is the idea that death comes for us all.
It is the great equalizer, and while Bill Parrish is able to pass away in greater comfort than someone wasting away in a hospital bed or a homeless person freezing to death on the streets of a Chicago winter, the end result is the same. It's inevitable, and Meet Joe Black is about that inevitability. All the money in the world doesn't change it.
One of the movie's big problems is the performance of Brad Pitt, who has chosen to play Death as a morose, wide eyed child; it's weird that he has been around since the beginning of time and knows so much about the way the world works but is still amazed by peanut butter. I have suggested before that Brad Pitt is a great character actor stuck with the looks of a leading man, and Meet Joe Black is that weird movie where those two halves of his screen persona come together uncomfortably.
He's got his bland, blonde late-'90s look and is presented as the romantic lead of the film but attempts to infuse his performance with character actor choices and please don't get me started on the scene where he speaks in a Jamaican accent. Maybe that's a miscalculation, or maybe they're just the wrong choices.
His performance has all the energy and dynamism of syrup, which only makes a three-hour movie feel longer. Ironically, he's at his best when he's just doing his nice-guy romantic comedy stuff early on in the film before some terrible late '90s CGI kills him off with one of the most shocking and weirdly mean-spirited car accidents ever committed to film.
He has a long scene in which he has coffee with Claire Forlani -- what the great Roger Ebert dubbed the "meet cute" -- and their chemistry is lovely and adorable.
We're totally ready to watch a movie about these two people falling love, and Brest understands that this scene has to work in order for us to feel the loss that comes immediately after. He overplays his hand by having them say goodbye and go off on their separate ways, only to then take turns stopping and looking back at one another six or seven times it gets to be as ridiculous as Cameron Diaz running towards the fence at the end of The Holiday.
Still, the moment works for me. This is the last time these two characters will see one another as they are, in a matter of speaking. It's a moment about the sadness of missed opportunity and the road not taken. A much larger problem is the fact that Meet Joe Black is at least three or four movies trying to coexist with one another. It's a movie about Anthony Hopkins facing the end of his life.
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It's a fantasy about Death getting to know what life is like on Earth. It's a romance between Brad Pitt and Claire Forlani.Meet Joe Black Soundtrack (That Next Place)
It's a movie about a father and his two daughters Forlani and Marcia Gay Hardenone of whom he clearly favors even though the other desperately seeks his love and attention. There's a whole subplot about a corporate takeover that doesn't need to exist. He can include it all.
None of this matters to me.