Meet Joe Black (1998)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Meet Joe Black</strong> (1998)

(On DVD, July 2015)  It’s rare to squarely point at length as a film’s main point of failure; usually, if the film is good then a few lulls won’t damage it; conversely, if a film is bad it will feel long even at 85 minutes.  But Meet Joe Black is something else: A film with pretty good moments, marred by interminable subplots and, thanks to director Marti Brest, a shooting style that never makes a point in five seconds if thirty will do.  A very young-looking Brad Pitt starts as Death incarnate, taking a holiday among humans to understand how we act like we do.  Opposite him, Anthony Hopkins plays a Hollywood rarity: a wealthy man with some innate decency, a genuinely good guy who nonetheless escape caricature.  Finally, Claire Forlani has never looked better than she does here as the daughter of the wealthy man, seduced by Death’s innocence.  (Which leads to a pretty funny scene in which our businessman comes to realize that Death, nominally there to get him, has ended up sleeping with his daughter.)  The film does have an understated poignancy, as death and his target negotiate the terms of our businessman’s death over a few days, timing it to ensure a small triumph.  And while the film does have a few unintentionally hilarious moments (That shot of Pitt’s character being hit by two cars plays beautifully as a looped gif), it’s generally earnest in its musings.  But, as stated previously, the film is fatally wounded by its pacing.  There simply isn’t enough plot to justify the three-hours (!) running length –in fact, the pacing issues are glaringly obvious on an individual scene level as there is no snappiness to the editing and sequences always run longer than you’d expect.  Lop off an hour (from the script, not in the editing room) and you’d have a far more potent film.  As it is, though, Meet Joe Black will repeatedly put anyone to sleep.

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