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Death Gets a Life

[whitespace] Meet Joe Black
Phillip V. Caruso

The Kiss of Death: Claire Forlani and Brad Pitt share a tender moment between human and earthly inevitability in Martin Brest's 'Meet Joe Black.'

Death doesn't become Brad Pitt in 'Meet Joe Black'

By Richard von Busack

DEATH, BE NOT BRAD. Three hours and four writers drain the juice out of the old legend of Death and the Maiden. The Reaper (Brad Pitt) assumes human form. "Joe Black," as he calls himself, has as his reluctant host Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), your standard communications giant who has made his billions without hurting anyone's feelings. Hopkins can be a terrific bore; all of those years he spent pickling in Pinter gave him a gaze of quiet inner suffering that's almost as emetic as Robin Williams smiling through his tears. Susan (Claire Forlani), his daughter and the film's love interest, is scornfully conceived. She's supposed to be an internist at a hospital--with loads of free time. She's in her 20s, but emotionally she's 17 years old--Ally McBeal, M.D. And Susan doesn't recognize Death, whom she's no doubt been fighting ever since she became a doctor. (In the passionate love scene, Forlani initiates virgin Death into human love as if the sturdy Pitt were a big fragile baby. It's supposed to be splendiferous, but hadn't you always heard that Death comes too soon?)

Martin Brest, who directed the similarly stodgy Scent of a Woman, directed and produced here. Meet Joe Black advises you to live every minute as if it were your last, while Brest directs at a speed that lets you know he has all the time in the world. Brest keeps this pompous, seemingly endless drama house bound in Parrish's huge brown mansion. With its decorative scheme of walnut paneling and abstract expressionist paintings, Meet Joe Black is a perfect example of what Picasso meant when he said that good taste was the enemy of creativity.

Meet Joe Black (R; 178 min.), directed by Martin Brest, photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki, written by Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Clair Forlani, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the November 19-24, 1998 issue of Metro.

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