Brad Pitt gives new meaning to that oft-heard
phrase, "Take me now!" Those of you who may
previously have feared death could possibly find
yourself unexpectedly awaiting renewal the moment
you go toward the light. As Freddy once sang, "Who
wants to live forever?" and who would have thought
that three hours with Death could make one feel so
Media tycoon William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), the
man who seems to have everything, suddenly feels a
pang in his chest, but not of his conscience, when he
hears a mysterious, almost muffled, and always
warm voice addressing him with odd comments
(some of which he originally came out of his own
mouth). It doesn't occur to him (or, at least, he tries
not to let it show) that Mr. D (or, in this case, Mr. B)
is coming to take him away. That is, not until "the
man" shows up in person, in his own home, and tells
him, while wandering between the numerous
volumes of the library (in Brad Pitt's flesh, no less),
that his time is up, but suggests a bargain could be
struck so that a delay to Mr. Parrish's final flight can
be arranged. You see, Mr. B wants to kick his heels
around this down-to-earth planet a little and get a
taste of it (as well as peanut butter), before returning
to his infinite and endless task of swinging scythes.
A little outing, a small holiday, is what he has in mind
and, as long as this is true, William Parrish can hang
onto dear life as long as Joe doesn't find himself
getting bored. Once Joe feels rigor-boredom setting
in, however, it'll be back to work for Joe; and bye-
bye for Bill.
'Meet Joe Black © copyright 1998 Universal City/ UIP
Now there's a fly in the ointment, so to speak,
because the real body of Pitt used to belong to "a
new boy in town" who earlier that morning was
phoning home from a New York City coffeeshop only
minutes before he inattentively got thrown through
the air by a passing automobile. Before this
unfortunate set of circumstances occurred, as fate
would have it, he was lucky enough (in a star-
crossed kind of way) to meet Susan Parrish (Claire
Forlani) and, let me tell you, the sparks were flying
over the cups of coffee in that greasy spoon where
more than breakfast was being served up. To say
the least, this lovely lady turned the young man's
head. And vice versa.
photo: Phillip V. Caruso'
When first we see him again after this encounter, he
has been transformed into Star Man from the Nether
Hopkins, as usual, glides through his role with
absolute perfection, so masterfully is he in control of
this portrayal. Pitt makes death an enjoyable
enterprise, despite those moments when he's less
than nice. Claire Forlani is incredible as Susan
Parrish and has a seemingly instinctual rapport with
the camera; she merely has to turn her head or
move her eyes in order to tell us more than words
could ever say. She makes so many moments
believable, even in the face of death.
As time goes on (to use a phrase) Mr. Black
unexpectedly finds himself developing not only an
affection for human life, but an even stronger one for
the delightful Miss Parrish. This intelligent,
available, and lovely woman hails from an influential
family and is sufficiently acquainted with grandiosity
that she seems the perfect match for a man of Mr.
Black's means. There's only one little problem:
she's still alive.
Nearing the end of the tale, the team of Mr. Parrish
and Mr. Black seem to have become almost eternally
united as an incomparable team (e.g. Laurel and
Hardy, Morcombe and Wise, Abbott and Costello,
Parrish and Black) most obviously as they do their
good-cop, bad-cop routine to the tune of such
unforgettable numbers as "You're Getting to Be a
Habit with Me" and "Anything Goes" while foiling the
villain. The background music played by the band
during the final party scene creates a humorous
running commentary parallel to the main events on
screen. The two olden goldies already mentioned
are joined by several other wonderful numbers as
"Our Love is Here to Stay," Let's Face the Music and
Dance," "Isn't This a Lovely Day," "Can't Help Lovin'
Dat Man," "Cheek to Cheek," and "Where or When".
A bit of imagination will help you picture how
appropriate these songs can be. "What a
Wonderful World" also manages to play on our
emotions and (who would ever believe that a director
would take this chance?) the closing titles even
manage to get an heart-lifting response from
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Oh, Judy, you've
got to see it to believe it.
Director/producer Martin Brest has spent almost two
decades with the idea of making this film, but
realized that it would demand a cleverly written, well-
proportioned script to make the story a convincing
one. The result would seem to prove it was worth
waiting for. The finished film lasts almost three
hours, but it still manages to leave you wanting
The credits announce that no less than four people
(Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade, and Bo
Goldman) wrote the screenplay, and, although this
large a number of screenwriters on a production can
often spell death to any film that manages to survive
them, this time around we are dealing with four
exceptionally talented scenarists who have crafted
the rare and enjoyable, as well as exceptional, story.
What a joy it is to watch and what a wonderful time
they must have had writing it. Director Brest has
managed to take even the most difficult of moments
and with the assistance of a sublime cast helped the
viewer to pass the border and move into the line of
willful suspension. One comes away feeling so
good! Quite a trick and there's nothing like it.
The production standards are first rate on all sides,
but a word of praise is not out of place for the
magnificent tableaux set forth by production
designer Dante Feretti. Once his name is attached
to a film, one knows that a visual treat is to follow.
And, as he proves during this film's concluding
scene, he certainly knows how to throw a party.
(Dante in Paradise!)
Totally enjoyable. A real weepy that manages to
carry itself off.
should bring along a box of tissues.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett