There is a magnetic pull to Meet Joe Black that is unmistakable and impossible to resist. This is a big, glorious, sumptuous looking, love story. Martin Breast, unfairly run out of Hollywood for Gigli, gives the film a glossy visual texture, weighted atmosphere, and allows the story time to breathe and develop. Meet Joe Black is the kind of film that used to come with an intermission. That ten-minute break would have benefited theatrical audiences, of which there were few as this was a notorious flop. Cinephiles typically point to David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the go-to for Brad Pitt headlined romantic dramas. But I prefer Meet Joe Black‘s lyrical nearly Shakespearean theatrics. Plus, the Thomas Newman score is one of the decades’ best.
Death decides to take the shape of a human in the form of Brad Pitt, to experience the human suffering and love. He chooses billionaire businessman Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) as his guide to earthly experiences. Death has made a deal with Mr. Parrish; Continued life while he stays interested in the daily ongoings of humans. Things are complicated by a romantic relationship that develops between Bill’s youngest daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani), and the attractive enigmatic man shadowing her father around.
This is a gorgeous production from the design, photography, actors/actresses, and locations. I said it back in ’98 and I stand by it today: Meet Joe Black should have been up for OSCAR nominations in every major category. It most certainly holds up better than Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love, though neither would have beaten The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan. Sure, the film makes so missteps and its length is just on this side of gluttonous, but this handsomely produced unabashedly old-fashioned love-story is a killer modern masterpiece.
Director: Martin Breast
Stars: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani