Volume 92, Issue 42
Wednesday, November 18, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Brad's death not the Pitts
Photo by Phillip V. Caruso
By Dan Nedelcu
As the saying goes, you can be sure of two things in life death and taxes.
In the latest fall blockbuster, Meet Joe Black, death isn't quite what it seems. Based on the 1934 Fredric March classic Death Takes a Holiday, Meet Joe Black is Martin Brest's first film since Scent of a Woman, which won Al Pacino an Oscar for Best Actor.
The apparition of Death/Grim Reaper appears in the form of a recently deceased elegant young man, played by Brad Pitt, who is on a quest to experience life and understand why people fear him. In order to participate in life to the fullest, Death acquires a tour guide, media mogul William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins).
Death makes a deal with him in which he prolongs Parrish's inevitable death, in return for a first hand experience of his world, money, power and peanut butter. Parrish introduces him as Joe Black and all goes well until Joe falls in love with Parrish's daughter Susan, played by the beautiful Claire Forlani.
Pitt is a fine actor and when given the right role, he can hold his own with the best. However, he seems to sleepwalk through most of this movie. Granted the role of Death must be played down a notch or two, this Keanu Reeves-esque performance gets a little tiresome. It seems they spent more time on details like the colour of Pitt's hair rather than the development of his character.
One of the stronger performances comes from Hopkins, who brings something extra to this film as the seasoned media tycoon. Hopkins has quite a few humorous moments as a man who knows Death isn't just around the corner, but is sleeping in the guest room upstairs.
He does, however, break into the occasional shout-speech made famous by Pacino in Scent of a Woman. But the scenes between him and Pitt are enjoyable to watch, because no one plays the sophisticated man like Hopkins. After all, that is why Death picked him to be his chaperon.
The chemistry between Joe and Susan is probably the strongest point of the film. Everything from their first awkward kiss to the sex-ed 101 taught by Susan is believable and heartwarming. It also gives both sexes equal reason to stay interested. The women in the audience can ogle Pitt, while the guys can succumb to Forlani's deep blue eyes.
The film is visually pleasing and the impeccably dressed characters fit well into their surroundings. Brest pays special attention to detail in the way he created his fantasy world, using key lighting in the cinematography. However, the long scenes in which the characters gaze at each other for minutes at a time, account for the film's nearly three-hour running time.
All the while there is expectation of something grand but it never happens. In the span of three hours, the film does try to make a statement on morality and human respectability.
Meet Joe Black is by no means a perfect film. It is long and sometimes winded, but the production value makes the three hours worth it barely.
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