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Overall Rating
3.09

Awesome: 18.24%
Worth A Look26.42%
Average: 20.75%
Pretty Bad: 15.72%
Total Crap: 18.87%

11 reviews, 93 user ratings


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Meet Joe Black
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Lengthy but surprisingly compelling; unfairly panned."
4 stars

One of the unwanted gifts of the impending millennium is the new metaphysics-lite subgenre. These movies usually involve good people -- no, make that downright noble people -- who go on some awe-inspiring spiritual journey, nudged along by lots of pieties and string music. 'Contact,' 'City of Angels' and 'What Dreams May Come' are prime examples. The point of these films always seems to be that the universe is kind, God is smiling above us and within us, blah blah blah.

Meet Joe Black is far and away the best of this crop, and not just because it skimps on the life-lesson speeches. (Anthony Hopkins, summing up the film in a Today Show interview, spouted more pieties than can be found in the entire three-hour movie.) This isn't a great film, but it's an excellent piece of work -- hushed, deliberate, surprisingly level-headed and intimate. The director, Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman), takes his time and lets tension and meaning gather in the long spaces between lines of dialogue. The 178-minute length makes sense: The movie unfolds during the final days of a man who has to learn to let go of his life.

Bill Parrish (Hopkins), an extravagantly rich businessman, has been plagued by alarming fatigue and chest pains. He suspects that death is near, and, sure enough, Death is waiting for Bill in his library -- in the form of Brad Pitt. Death, who soon assumes the name Joe Black, has occupied a human body and wishes to experience life on this mortal coil before he takes Bill into the undiscover'd country. This idea has been around before, of course -- in 1934's Death Takes a Holiday and its many permutations since. And the selling point now, as then, is the romance between Joe and Susan (Claire Forlani), the younger of Bill's two daughters. As a doomed storybook love, this beats Titanic all to hell: Hey, guy, you're Death -- you can't be messing around with mortals, even if they do look like Claire Forlani.

Surprisingly, though, the script (credited to Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade, and Bo Goldman) treats the romance as a plot point among equals. Much of the film's emphasis is not on Joe Black but on Bill, who knows he doesn't have much longer to live and is trying to put things in order. More important, he learns, is to put things in perspective. Anthony Hopkins does a beautifully subtle job of showing us the growing tension between Bill's not wanting to leave his loving daughters (his eldest, who's throwing herself into planning his 65th birthday party, is played by the warm and appealing Marcia Gay Harden) and his wanting to make sure there's no unresolved business. The character is a bit idealized -- your basic dream boss -- but Hopkins burrows inside the man's fear, anger, and resignation.

Brest's Scent of a Woman had that completely needless subplot about Chris O'Donnell getting in trouble for a prank, and some will say that Brest is at it again in Meet Joe Black: There are maybe three scenes too many involving the machinations of Bill's devious right-hand man Drew (Jake Weber, who nonetheless brings dry wit to a thankless role). And Thomas Newman's score gets a bit too loud and effusive near the end, screaming "Cry!" (To be frank, I didn't need musical encouragement. When Susan delivered her line about her father, I admit I was a goner.)

Judging by her winning performance here, I'd guess Claire Forlani is about to become very hot, and deservedly so; Brad Pitt, too, makes up for his dullness in The Devil's Own and Seven Years in Tibet. Sometimes he's funny (as when Joe discovers the joys of peanut butter), sometimes a little frightening. What's more, Meet Joe Black contains one of the more shocking images I've ever seen in a movie -- the opening-night audience buzzed about it for a full minute. (You'll know it when you see it.)

Overall, the movie is full of surprises: Long but never boring, spiritual but never soggy, this is the brand of big entertainment Hollywood is best at but so rarely does right these days.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=189&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/15/07 15:49:03
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User Comments

4/02/13 G. Zullo Emgaging, provavitive & highly entertaining, an all-time favorite! 5 stars
3/23/12 Doug McW Intelligent, refreshing movie. A thinking person's movie that can be watched over and over. 5 stars
1/27/12 Leslie Great film, but a tad long 5 stars
11/22/11 RIFMAN Favorite All Time Movie. 5 stars
10/13/11 Dr.Lao Boring and creepy, hardly traits I associate with a romance movie 1 stars
8/05/11 Quigley There is no excuse for the running time. Not to mention it absolutely refused to end. 2 stars
7/27/11 Mark Interesting most of the negative comments are that it's too long, says more about the view. 4 stars
9/19/10 Spencer T. Chang This is one of my favorite movies, ever. Beautiful acting, score. Absolute movie magic. 5 stars
9/10/10 Sandra Excellent story to express many life lessons in understanding process of life and death. 5 stars
8/25/10 Jeff Slow and pretentious 2 stars
6/05/10 sehoy Great acting--loved Brad Pitt, Hopkins always wonderful. Didn't notice length 5 stars
5/16/10 Don Lawrence Outstanding movie and love the musical score as well. 5 stars
4/27/10 PAUL SHORTT ODD AND CONTRIVED 1 stars
2/15/10 johnny the actors and the characters they play are beautiful. 5 stars
2/10/10 John Zito A sombre gem,reminiscient of On The Beach,(1959),theres even a sountrack riff thats similar 5 stars
1/24/10 Doug 5 times viewed. Parrish is at his end, Black is at his beginning. So much more than a movie 5 stars
12/04/08 Crabes This is such a waste of talent, I can barely believe it 1 stars
11/18/08 Eric Southern First rate in every way; only simpletons could find fault. 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 4 stars
6/25/08 S.Whelan Great slow moving film, with brilliant performances by both Hopkins & Pitt 5 stars
6/14/08 kdog My favorite movie of all time. I didn't want it to end. Funny, romantic, great dialogue. 5 stars
3/19/08 Leah I think the BEST MOVIE of its kind EVER 4 stars
11/02/07 Lord Skeletor Probably One of the Most Stirring Flicks I've Ever Seen. 5 stars
1/11/07 David Pollastrini Pitt getting hit by the car was done perfectly 3 stars
11/18/06 Brad Bourland It has a good story, and good production values, and about 55 too many minutes 3 stars
11/09/06 Chuck How can you fags bitch about watching Claire Forlani for 3 hours? 4 stars
9/25/06 DELORAS RUTLEDGE I LOVED THE MOVIE IT'S A GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
5/05/06 ES Where's all the goddam peanut butter?"- I love that, the movie not so much 2 stars
4/11/06 Marquita Stokes I thought the movie was amazing that lended an intelligent deep perspective on life and lov 4 stars
2/24/06 TB Need to get rid of romance and stay with the story 3 stars
11/14/05 Krisan Long.... but good story line, could have shortened it a bit 4 stars
4/22/05 klee mindless dribble, do urse;f a favour & have ur eyes ripped out before you see this crap 1 stars
3/28/05 ramez the best ive seen 3 stars
9/26/04 david really good , brad pitt was awesome 5 stars
5/31/04 Gray you know how chick flicks have a reputation as sucky? well this craptacual film proves it! 1 stars
4/06/04 Amber Interesting outlook on death 4 stars
4/01/04 john long winded but well made 4 stars
3/21/04 Tiffany Thunderhurst A transcontinental snail race would be faster paced than this movie! 1 stars
2/23/04 Joe *snore* Long and Booooooooooooooooring 1 stars
11/27/03 Sumit Goel A wonderful movie with extremely powerful performances. 5 stars
11/23/03 Kris Huge disappointment! Harden's talent completely wasted. A predictable bore. 1 stars
10/05/03 Jake At three hours long sitting all the way through this movie is like being tortured 1 stars
7/25/03 RazieR This is one of the greatest movies ive seen. mr.pink...you are totally ignorant 5 stars
5/09/03 The Talking Elbow Maybe a good premise, but the presentation was all WRONG and it SUCKED 1 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Everybody's worst work. Pitt and Hopkins should've read the script one this one. 3 hours?!? 1 stars
4/07/03 Jack Sommersby Contrived and overlong but admittedly satisfying. Pitt could have used a lot more variety. 3 stars
10/30/02 Patrick this was very enjoyable. 4 stars
10/12/02 Natalia, Irina's friend agree 5 stars
10/12/02 Irina Best Death-theme interpretation ever seen 5 stars
8/14/02 MI I thorougly enjoyed the movie, despite the THREE hours it took to get to the end. 5 stars
8/12/02 R.W. Welch Leaden pacing and miscasting of Pitt just about sink this remake of Death Takes a Holiday. 3 stars
7/19/02 John Burkitt intriguing, engrossing 4 stars
3/05/02 Julia Cox Lightning-paced edge-of-your-seat thriller that ends all too soon! 1 stars
8/19/01 Dr. Thompson Not bad. Brad Pitt acts like hes on illegal medication. 4 stars
8/01/01 Natalie Brad Pitt and Claire Forlani are AWESOME!!! 5 stars
7/17/01 Piz If you're not in a hurry it's a good love story, Pitt's acting is actually tolerable here 4 stars
5/20/01 hgfc sucks all ass 1 stars
5/08/01 Gracy Lionheart Ugh...the only good thing is watching Brad Pitt. 2 stars
4/29/01 The Jedi Droid I only saw this because the new star wars trailer was showing. man what a long flick 3 stars
4/04/01 PALUCH Soft kind of movie,"..what great movies are all about" 4 stars
1/24/01 terrie smith Like watching paint dry; Hopkins better than the script & Forlani is exquisite. to watch. 3 stars
9/18/00 Paul This movie is too fucking long. So boring I almost fell into a coma 1 stars
9/17/00 JB Great look at the slow process of dying. Loved it!!! 5 stars
4/19/00 seldom scene long, but well acted and the film is never in a hurry, gives you time to ponder or predict. 4 stars
4/01/00 Tino Slaut A shocking mess of a film! Watching it is like snooping around at an airplane crash site. 1 stars
3/31/00 Arnaldo Cruz Well directed,powerfull, and way overlook 5 stars
3/21/00 Sam This movie suked big donkey balls. If you rent this movie you will be pissed 1 stars
2/23/00 Neil Austin Yawn. Utter Bilge 1 stars
9/24/99 KK Pitt Sucks Big Time!!!! Hopkins, what the hell were you thinking working with this loser??? 1 stars
9/06/99 Weird Andy O,Bergman! What crimes are committed in thy name! 1 stars
8/01/99 hum ok, much to long. makes me think id like to see the original 3 stars
7/12/99 Mudbug So boring I turned it off halfway. 2 stars
7/03/99 ADAM (OREOADAM@AOL.COM) THIS MOVIE SUCKED BIG ASS 1 stars
6/03/99 lucasd jackson this movie was good until Brad Pitt came into the movie 1 stars
4/12/99 Randall What was with all the complaining about length, it went quickly for me, i loved it 5 stars
4/05/99 Cool Thing BAM! Three hours of my life GONE! Wasted! Utter shite. Wasted premise. 1 stars
3/03/99 john morton I saw it in Italy, but how can death not know how to eat? lame Brad Pitt vehicle, no brain 1 stars
1/14/99 Melissa Another film that has been heavily criticized, but I enjoyed it. Hopkins is fabulous. 4 stars
1/11/99 Jaime Other than the fact that death never looked so good, this film has nothing to offer. 2 stars
1/10/99 Diogenesnutz This was one of the most unbelievably boring movies I've ever seen. 1 stars
1/08/99 john r Movie was entertaining although Pitt was rather stiff. Anthony Hopkins was outstanding. 3 stars
1/04/99 jlgallardo The story was not quite convincing. See it in theaters don't rent it, you will hate it. 3 stars
1/01/99 Movie Geezer haaated it---looong and stupid 2 stars
12/09/98 AnnieBee Death can speak in Island tongue but has never tasted peanut butter? Come on! 3 stars
12/06/98 Mr Showbiz Protracted, overindulgent remake of "Death Takes A Holiday". May just bore you to.. 3 stars
12/02/98 16 in, of swingin' meat and a bucket of balls Great cinematography, great cast, but it was damn near 3 hrs.long, but it was good! 4 stars
12/01/98 Bluntman Anthony Hopkins is wonderful, clever lines, a fine story- all and all entertaining. 4 stars
11/25/98 Callie The original picture "Death Takes a Holiday" really can't be topped. But Brad is AOK !!!!!! 4 stars
11/23/98 Daniel A girlie flick...might as well see Point Break with a better script. 3 stars
11/23/98 Freyja 3 words. Brad Pitt naked. 5 stars
11/21/98 Zantwerp Absoluetely one of the best films of the year. The cinematography was incredible!!! 5 stars
11/11/98 Tina 3 hrs of pitt living vicariously through hopkins & a feeble atempt at acting by forlani 3 stars
10/19/98 Dark Horizons A really amazing film. Visually just stunning, some really excellent dialogue. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Nov-1998 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  11-Mar-1999 (M)




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