Archive for February, 2010


Meet Joe Black

February 24, 2010

I watched “Meet Joe Black” several times recently, the last half one day on cable and the first half another day, then going out to buy the DVD at Barnes and Noble so I could watch it as a whole, the entire three hours straight through.

Death, i.e. the angel of death (played by Brad Pitt) is a bit bored doing the same thing day after day, collecting souls and escorting them to their next assigned habitat. He doesn’t decide where that is to be, mind you, he merely serves as an escort. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the movie:

Meet Joe Black is a 1998 romantic drama produced by Universal Studios and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Claire Forlani, loosely based on the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. The film is about media mogul Bill Parrish who becomes a guide to the angel of Death, who takes the form of a young man to learn about life on Earth and in the process, falls in love with Bill’s daughter Susan.

In the plot, Death becomes curious about this man Bill Parrish, wondering what his daily life on earth is like. After all, he never gets to see anything but the last few moments of anyone’s life.

Knowing the time is approaching for Bill’s demise, Death comes to Bill’s home and offers him a deal: make me welcome for as long as I like, and you can have extra time on earth. Just one thing – you can’t tell anyone who I really am. Bill agrees, and introduces him to the family as Joe Black. After all, Bill says, “If I tell them who you really are, I don’t think anyone will stay for dinner.”

Since he needed a human body to live in on earth, Death had selected a pleasant young man, nice looking, who was killed in an unfortunate accident – hit by a car while crossing the street.

“Coincidentally,” that young man had just met Susan Parrish, the daughter of his chosen research project, and Susan had been somewhat enchanted by him. An ensuing romance between Susan and Joe is intertwined into the story line – which complicates life, and death, for both of them.

One critic gave the movie a bad review. He assumed angels are “all knowing,” and since Joe Black didn’t act “all knowing,” it wasn’t a very good portrayal by Brad Pitt. I disagreed. God is all knowing, angels aren’t.

I thought Brad Pitt’s portrayal was very apt, more or less the way I would have written it. If an angel wants to investigate life as a human being on earth, it’s because he isn’t all knowing. He learns as he goes, about family, business, character – and love. Having fallen in love with Susan, at one point he determines to take Susan with them also, when it is time to take Bill Parrish. A horrified Bill persuades him not to do that.

At the end of the film when it’s time for Bill to die, he asks Joe, “Should I be afraid?” “Not a man like you,” Joe replies. They walk across a little bridge, out of sight and into eternity.

And then the other Joe Black – the young man killed in the car crash – walks back across the bridge to where Bill’s daughter Susan is standing, gazing toward the bridge.

Seeing Joe and her father walk away together, she had fully realized Joe’s true identity as the angel of Death. She knew Joe had to leave her, because it was time for her father to die.

But as a sign of his understanding, Death has not left her completely alone. The original “Joe” has been brought back to life for Susan, to get to know and perhaps fall in love with, as she had done with him.

It was a good ending.

A thought about Joe Black’s line, “Not a man like you.” A man gets into heaven, with or without an angel escort, only because of Jesus.

A born-again Bill Parrish is the sort of man who is truly busy in heaven, designing and building and accomplishing and enjoying every minute of it.

I liked this movie. I’ll probably watch it again.