Meet Joe Black: Directing Review

14 May

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Meet Joe Black (1998) is a fantasy film directed by Martin Brest, starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Claire Forlani. This movie is about the character of William Parrish, a billionaire business mogul who has been taken interest by Death. The character of Death is a grim reaper in the foremost sense. Death has taken the body of a young man, a potential love interest of William Parrish’s daughter, Susan. Throughout the movie, William Parrish uses the extra time he is given by death to act in honesty, spend time with his family, make amends where he has made wrongs, and create overall closure in his life. While Death is taking his “vacation” he falls in love with Susan, and Susan falls in love with him. In the end, Death and William Parrish both must leave behind the world that they both hold so dear. 

This movie brings out many themes and many choices the director could have made to change what was going to happen or how the action was portrayed. One example of this choice is how Martin Brest took this film in a realistic, secular look at life and death, and ignored the religious undertones this film could have had. The style of directing brought out the inspiration of life, values one should always have and dynamic acting performances of Hopkins and Pitt. However, this movie could have been shortened (from its 3 hour run time) and could have had many scenes taken out. 

One scene that I believe had a good acting direction, was the last scene. The end finale. After dancing with his daughter for the very last time, William Parrish meets with Death at the beginning of a bridge and they both leave this world. Crossing over the bridge from this world into that world. The scene was slow paced, but it was put into the film for a time of reflexion. The scene was surrounded by the 65th birthday party of William Parrish, with the grandeur of fireworks and lights and music. It gave a simplified, sweet and beautiful ending, which opposed the beginning, which started in darkness and pain. In the beginning of the movie, William Parrish awakes with a heart pains, and he is lonely, surrounded in his darkened room in the middle of the night. By the end, you see that light has pushed through the darkness and he is surrounded by friends and family. 

One of the scenes that I believe could have had been left out of the movie would be in the middle of the story, when William Parrish keeps talking with unnecessary minor characters about business, even in his own home. These scenes could have had been cut, but I can see why the director left them in. He left them in to build up to the climax of the chairman of the board scandal within the company. But, the minor characters are not doing anything in particular to influence the movie. The director could have also had left in these scenes to show how much William Parrish was a businessman, but in the end, these scenes become repetitive and add no other use to the film. 

The storyline of the film can sometimes be blurred by the many scenes within the film. We see that in the beginning, the storyline is mostly centered around William Parrish. We see him make connections with his family over the next final days of his life, but his storyline has been pushed aside by Joe Black’s (Death) storyline of falling in love with Susan Parrish, the daughter of William Parrish. I believe there could have been a better balance between the two storylines, but I believe the director wanted to show how Joe Black was able to blur into reality. How he was not seen just as death, and how he came into the life of William Parrish as a blessing, more than a curse. Even though the movie is very long, many scenes feel rushed and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. 

Lastly, I would like to talk about my favorite scene in the whole film. It is in the beginning when Susan Parrish, after taking a helicopter ride into the city with her father, is contemplating her love with her father’s employee, Drew. Her father has told her to open her heart, and “wait for lightning to strike”. So, in the coffee shop, she meets this unnamed guy who makes small talk with her while she is preparing for work. This scene is drawn out, but it really adds this sense of wonderment to the film. The choice of leaving the man nameless lets us make him less relatable, because we see his “death” later in the scene. At the same time, we see his charm and his likability, so we are able to root for him to return to Susan after Joe Black has left. The choice of the director to also make it the part in the film where destiny has brought them both together is very clever and makes for a good start to the story. 

In conclusion, the directing styles in the movie Meet Joe Black are blatantly apparent and very drawn out. However, the key scenes that add to the dynamic of the movie are very well placed and done well. The overall directing style adds to the viewing of the film, and how the audience relates to the characters and the scenes within the film (in the most likable way possible). I would have liked to see this film done with another director, but overall, I enjoyed it. 

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