There are very few things I remember from 1998, there was a world cup in France, Birmingham held the Eurovision song contest and Westlife were massive, looking back, none of which have aged particularly well, but one thing from that year that still brings me pleasure even till this day is the fantasy romance film Meet Joe Black.
Directed by Marin Brest and starring the then biggest star in the world, Brad Pitt, along with Anthony Hopkins and Claire Forlani, Meet Joe Black was in spirit a loose adaptation of the 1934 movie Death Takes a Holiday, it depicts a William Parrish (Hopkins), a media mogul who is chosen by death (Pitt), to guide him through life as a mortal, in return William gets to stave off his own death for just a little longer.
The film is an interesting look into the life of someone that knows that they are close to death, contrasting against someone that is experiencing life and love for the first time, all of this set against the elegant and beautiful backdrop of upstate New York, adding to the feeling that the entire film is a dreamlike tale of opulence, mixed in with witty dialogue, nicely spread out over a 3 hour runtime, though this is something that has split audiences, half believing that it is too much of a slow boil and could have been condensed, others believing that it gives time to fully explore some of the complex issues at play, such as interacting with your family when you know that you are not long of this world or experiencing the feeling of falling deeply in love.
In a way Meet Joe Black is a pretty straight forward film, make interesting with the added twist of one of the characters being death in human form, effectively a highly smart, all-knowing being, but with zero life experience, producing a pretty interesting situation where he is both the cleverest and stupidest being simultaneous.
Sadly this film isn’t for everyone, it came at the hight of the 3 hour epidemic when all movies had to be as long as possible, but in my opinion, being a long movie doesn’t hurt a film as much as cutting one short, the plot of the film is complicated and needs breaking down over time, drawing you in and paying out with an emotional crescendo, party down to the sterling performance given by Hopkins, his portrayal of a man stuck between knowing he is about to die, while also attempting to keep his business empire and family together is both interesting and moving, while Pitt and Forlani are believable as two people that wish to be together, but sense a reason they can’t be, overall Meet Joe Black is an above average romantic drama, with a twist that introduces some pretty unique problems that the characters have to face, which I believe was portrayed in a delicate and subtle way, requiring a long run time, my only down side was that some of the supporting cast, such as Sarah’s fiancé Drew (Jake Webber) comes across as a pretty stereotypical antagonist or William Parrish’s treatment of his other daughter Alison (Marcia Harden) in relation to a clear favouritism towards Sarah, but these are minor downfalls in an overall solid movie.