Monday, January 27, 2014

Meet Joe Black ★★1/2

 Image result for Meet Joe Black film stills

    Death is an essential, natural aspect of life. It lingers in the darkest of shadows, thriving on the weakness of humanity, and it graces us with its presence when we least expect it. "Meet Joe Black" is a 1998 film that relinquishes death as an ideal, and it gives this sentient entity a persona. This film is loosely based on the 1934 movie entitled "Death Takes a Holiday." With direction by Martin Brest, this American romantic fantasy will tease and tantalize, but ultimately it is overshadowed by what could have been.

    This film opens with our main character, William Parrish, sound asleep in his seemingly multi-million dollar estate. He begins to hear voices, albeit similar to his own, but doesn't make much of them. This, of course, is due to the fact that Bill is on the eve of a very important merger, which involves his company and another media mogul. (This is not to mention that he is just days away from becoming a senior citizen.) During these trying times, Bill manages to organize his time efficiently and even has a life changing conversation with his youngest daughter, Susan. She is currently involved with one of her father's board members, a young and brash gentleman named Drew, although her father can see that she is not "head over heels" in love. He encourages her to find true love as he sees it and to "stay open." For, "Lightening could strike."

    With this new found advice, Susan enjoys coffee at a local diner and meets a young man whose name is unknown to us. She enjoys a genuine conversation, and after multiple compliments, she becomes flattered at the thought of seeing this man once more. Little known to her (or him for that matter), Death is waiting just around the corner--literally. Death proceeds to take this man's life (in a ridiculous computer-generated hit and run) and embodies him. For, Death has an important mission here in the world of flesh, although it is mostly personal. He is here to obtain the life of William Parrish; however, after centuries of tiresome loneliness, he decides to take a personal tour of our world; he has chosen Bill to give him that tour. In exchange, Death will grant him more time, or, essentially, an extension of his life. This strange situation will breathe confusion into Bill's immediate family, and, most importantly, into the relationship between the unnamed man and Susan.

    "Meet Joe Black" exhibits a plethora of familiar and successful actors and actresses. Anthony Hopkins steps into the role of William Parrish. Hopkins is truly believable as this millionaire who is incredibly passionate about his family and career. He displays grace and dignity throughout the process, which is why we have grown to love him as a professional actor. Susan is played by the incredibly beautiful Claire Forlani. Forlani genuinely embodies the character of a young female doctor who is painstakingly naive when it comes to the concept of love. (I have never seen a pair of eyes more piercing than those that belong to Mrs. Forlani.)

    The complex role of Death is played by the one and only Brad Pitt. This is a very delicate role that involves how we believe Death would feel on an emotional front, how he would maneuver and speak. Pitt delivers these characteristics in an awkward and uneasy manner. Overall, this role is incredibly difficult to critique; besides a few notable and rather atrocious scenes involving Brad Pitt conversing in a Jamaican style accent with an elderly lady, Pitt strategically executes the role of Death in the best-perceived fashion.

    "Meet Joe Black" has all the components that a masterpiece should have. The problem is in regard to the execution of the plot and story. For example, there are two relationships at work in this film. First, you have the relationship between Death and Mr. William Parrish, then you have a romantic excursion between Death and Susan. These two partnerships take away from the morale of the film, and we are ultimately left with a feeling of emptiness. We scurry from plot to plot in an unflattering manner with little closure.

    Obviously, the sole inclusion of Parrish is to give Death a reason to enter into this world and to fall in love with Susan. The problem is, we begin to care for the character of Bill Parrish more than this contemporary and bland romanticism. This film has been criticized for its lengthy running time of three hours. Although it is true that we could live without the "love-making" scene involving Death and Susan, it does provide adequate time for the plot to develop naturally. Unfortunately, we over indulge in this meaningless romantic relationship and forget why Death graced us with his presence in the first place.

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