Rotten Tomatoes Freshness Meter
Critics – 51%
Audience – 81%
What You Should Know
It would seem most already know it: this is, in fact, a good movie. I had no idea that the audience score would be so high considering how widely dismissed this film is. If you have not seen Meet Joe Black what you need to know is Brad Pitt (despite his own comments to the contrary) gives one of his best performances. Anthony Hopkins is excellent (as usual) and the supporting cast (Jeffery Tambor, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber and Marcia Gay Harden) are excellent. This is a large scale film about interpersonal relationships.
Why You Should Reconsider
If you have not seen the film based on the nonsense flying about on the web let me try and persuade you otherwise. Brad Pitt delivers two performances in the film, one as a normal guy and one as Death. This is not a dark, brooding, cerebral film. Yes, the film centers on the inevitable death of the character played by Anthony Hopkins but there is no sense of dread hanging over every moment. Anthony Hopkins does an excellent job of conveying the confusion and calm that would come from knowing your time is almost up without being an insufferable bore. I cannot imagine this is easy to do.
Which is not to say this is a boring film or a film where nothing happens. What does happen is on a very small, personal scale. Yes, this is a big budget film with lavish sets and is shot in a film format that feels big. There is space everywhere. You should give this film another chance because you will, if you are able to get past whatever you have heard, connect with the very real, very human characters that populate this world.
As stated I believe many people think this film is lacking because Brad Pitt has said many unkind things about it. This is unfortunate because his comments, damning his own performance no less, are completely wrong-headed. Rarely has he been so interesting in a film. He has claimed that he “flatlined” in the making of the film. I disagree. What he did was deliver a subtle, nuanced performance where he did not “do” much. It is interesting to watch (the peanut butter scene is exceptional).
Couple that with him playing opposite Anthony Hopkins who easily fills the space that is provided and there is a rewarding back-and-forth between the two actors. It is interesting to watch Mr. Hopkins having to defer to Mr. Pitt, due to the nature of the relationship between their characters. The tension this relationship creates, and the way the film handles how this tension ripples outwards, affecting the other characters, provides the film with most of its drama.
Other misconceptions may be that because of the director’s next film, Gigli, he is a director to avoid. It is hard to respond to such nonsense. Every director has made films that have failed to work and Martin Brest is no exception. Meet Joe Black succeeds at what it tries to achieve. Despite what you, the audience, know, you come to care for and about Death – embodied in Brad Pitt. This is no small feat.