Meet Joe Black

Reviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 02/16/00 09:31:07

"Meet Him - You May Be Delightfully Surprised"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Meet Joe Black (*** Ĺ) - For 170 minutes of this film, I was totally into it. I believed this to be a very thoughtful, and in most cases, very well-written romantic fantasy. Then I saw the final 5 minutes - and unfortunately, they stick out like a sore thumb. But letís get to the good stuff before I mention some of my problems with the film.

First of all - Is Anthony Hopkins one of the five greatest actors working today in film? I think so. As much attention that Brad Pitt is going to reap from this film, this is Hopkinsí movie. The majority of the film would not work without him as the strong center of it. Here he plays a character so thoughtful, so well-spoken, smart and soulful that you canít help be moved watching his just his face during the entire film because we know what he knows. Iím treading carefully here as to not give away too much - so Iíll try to summarize as much as possible. Brad Pitt gives another impressive performance being at times sweet and innocent and then strong and forceful. And Claire Forlani has such a natural beauty to her that guys should just want to kiss her right there on the screen. She is a beautiful woman. I didnít get into the romantic angle of the film as much as I would have liked to - even though I accepted it. The film could also have done without the takeover plot of Hopkinsí company, even though I liked the way in which it was resolved. I also thought that the idea of an otherworldly entity experiencing life on earth was better handled in City of Angels. The knowledge that the character of Death seems to contains is questionable at times. I can understand he doesnít know what Peanut Butter tastes like - but he should know what it is - because he certainly knows things about people pasts - plus exactly what an IRS agent is. He also acts like he doesnít know Forlani, under circumstances I wonít say, although he knew exactly what she was doing on that day - this scene plays a little awkwardly. What I liked most about the film was the way it took itís characters and itís situations seriously and embracing them with some well-written scenes, especially an early scene in a coffee shop which is one of the filmís best, well-written and so well-directed. I was also naturally more drawn to the way Hopkins deals with himself, his company, and his family after receiving his bad news. Every one of his scenes has a ring of truth to it. The film also contains, Iíd have to say, the single best moment of someone being hit by a car ever. The moment is meant to be a shock - and believe me it is - but you might actually be tempted to laugh at it. And I did. But not because it was funny - but because the filmmakers had the audacity and balls to do it. Itís a testament to the wonders of computer special effects and I applaud it.

I wish I could have said that about the final 5 minutes. And without giving anything away - all I will say is that the film could have ended five minutes earlier and it would have ended with more poignancy and impact. By adding those five extra minutes, just that one extra scene, cheapens and dumbs down the material to give it a manufactured happy ending. The film needed a fade out a little earlier to preserve an otherwise terrific film.

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