It has always baffled me how much this touching and poignant film was derided by critics when it was released. Directed by Martin Brest, “Meet Joe Black” tells the story of Bill Parrish, a soon-to-be 65-year-old media mogul whose time on Earth is coming to an end. Death appears to Bill in the form of a handsome young man (Brad Pitt), who strikes a deal with Bill after being enamored by Bill’s relationship with his daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani). In exchange for more time in this life, Bill will act as Death’s guide on Earth.
Sure, there are far too many saccharine moments and the film moves at a snail’s pace, but beneath all that languid syrup is a movie rich in thoughtful dialogue about life and our place in the world. The idea that Death painstakingly wants to learn about what makes life worth living is fascinating, and Pitt and Hopkins’ performances elevate the script to undeserving heights. “Meet Joe Black” isn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but its meditation on life, loss, and love warrants a lot more attention and praise than it was given.