Throwback Thursday: Meet Joe Black

13 Jun

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Today’s we’re going to meander down memory lane like a senile old person. Which lane, you ask? Well it’s not really a lane, it’s a metaphor. I mean, it’s a movie. The lane is a movie, not a metaphor. Wait, the lane is a movie, and THAT’S a metaphor. English, motherfuckers.

So I’d like to go back to 1998 for a second and talk a little about one of my favorite movies, Meet Joe Black. This film stars Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt and Claire Forlani and tells the tale of Death, who decides to take a vacation from ushering souls to the next place and wants to experience the high life of an accomplished man. Death takes a body and steps into the life of the man he’s chosen, media mogul Bill Parrish. Parrish’s daughter has recently met the man in the body which death decided to use and this sets the story off. 

My love for this movie compels me to talk about it forever, but for your sake I will try to filter and limit myself. The premise of this movie is just so-so but the incredible performances make it a film that stays with you. The way Pitt plays Death is genius and is explained in a clever scene with Hopkins as they stroll on the city sidewalk. Pitt constantly seems distracted but wouldn’t you be if you were doing a thousand things simultaneously? There is a scene where Pitt uses a Jamaican accent to great effect and I am totally transfixed whenever I hear it. I also can’t say enough about Hopkins’ performance. He is so sure of himself, so passionate but he’s also in a vulnerable position which endears the audience to him. The monologues that Hopkins delivers, about life and love, are so powerful and apt that I often reflect on them in a spare moment. 

I especially cherish the relationship between Hopkins and Forlani, or dad Bill and daughter Susan. The way he dotes on her, and adores her, it reminds me of my dad. I am my father’s first child and only daughter, and the way he looks at me, with pride and a kind of secret wink that reassures me I am loved unconditionally; it’s really defined my personality. I love seeing Hopkins and Forlani interact on-screen in this close relationship; it fills me with warmth. Too bad Forlani’s career crashed and burned after this movie. Making out with Brad Pitt must have blown up all her brain cells. It’s the only logical conclusion.

The music and set pieces in this film are incredible, and incredibly timeless in my opinion. For a movie that’s 15 years old I still want the way Bill Parrish’s home is decorated for his birthday party to be the way my wedding is decorated. The music everyone dances to could still be played today. Everything about this movie suggests romance and mystery and a sense of wonder and refinement.

A final word about the story, everyone’s part in this movie is really great, not just Forlani, Pitt and Hopkins. Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden and Jeffrey Tambor all do an excellent job as suspicious colleague, sensitive daughter and kind hearted husband respectively.

There are quite a few clever and funny scenes in the movie, but occasionally we aren’t sure if something is supposed to be funny or not, such as the scene where Pitt’s young man dies being hit by a car, or when Quince comments that he loves little girls. I sense this is just poor directing from Martin Brest, who also directed Gigli and has never made a movie since. I get the notion that this cast did all the legwork here, or maybe humour just isn’t Brest’s strong suit.

Even though this movie has an unbelievably long run time of three hours, if you let yourself love this movie the pay off is big. Beautiful set pieces, soaring music scores, wonderful performances filled with truth and wit make this one of my faves.

Happy Father’s Day to my dad, who never gives up on his kids, who loves unconditionally, who is inclusive, funny and warm and who is always sure of himself.

I’m aiming to see Man of Steel this weekend so hopefully I’ll have a review for that out next week, as well I caught This Is The End this past Tuesday and I will have a review tomorrow for that film. It’s definitely fun, and funny, but in the most low brow way you can imagine. More later, you greedy, naughty penguins. 

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