They say nothing is certain in life but death and taxes. Having dealt with the loss of my father over the past few weeks, only to come home to a slew of W-2 and 1099 forms piled up in the mail, I can affirm this is true. After struggling to find a film that represents the impact my dad has had on my movie-going life, I wound up back here– in 1998, with a fully-highlighted, fully bonkers Brad Pitt, in this week’s pick Meet Joe Black (Disc/Download).
The thing about my dad was that he was up for anything as long as it meant he got to spend time with me. After I turned full “surly teenager”, he saw the writing on the wall. The late ’90s would be one of Lilith Fair concerts, swing dance classes (because Swingers), and movies. Dozens and dozens of movies. Without fail, every other Friday night we had a date to watch whatever celluloid scraps the film gods dumped upon middle-America. Meet Joe Black was such a scrap. At three hours long, this drama about a New York media tycoon (Anthony Hopkins) playing host to the grim reaper (Pitt) feels a bit like that long march to the grave. And yet… when the end finally comes, I’m not ready. I want more of the Brad we see in his first scene, before he gets clobbered (twice!) by a car. The Brad who knows how to sit in a goddamn chair and not look like a lost, mentally disabled twelve-year old at every turn. The Brad who is SO DAMN CHARMING in his meet-cute with Claire Forlani that I’ve moved my VHS copy of this movie through five households because I can’t bear to say goodbye to that scene. And reader, it was a two-tape movie.
Once Death decides to inhabit the body of Brad Pitt (because why not pick our finest living specimen?), all training goes out the window. The thing is, Brad is currently one of my favorite working character actors. But knowing what he’s capable of now only makes the scenes of him eating peanut butter that much worse. This week, let’s drown our sorrows in a cocktail Joe would thoroughly approve of. While watching Meet Joe Black, I recommend drinking this Peanut Butter Man cocktail.
Peanut Butter Man
1.5 oz Peanut Butter Whiskey
.75 oz Rye
3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
Combine peanut butter whiskey, rye, and bitters in a glass over ice. Stir until chilled, then garnish with a cherry and orange twist.
Brad’s acting aside, the main problem with this film is pacing. Many parts seem to drag on for an eternity, however this is actually a good thing when it comes to the few love scenes we’re given. You see, Death falls for the daughter of the man he’s come to claim, and before his vacation is over, he wants to have one final roll in the luxury high-rise hay. This scene is incredibly well shot, and could be a lesson to future romance films (not that these are even being made anymore, but I digress). The simple fact that my dad and I watched this together without a troubling amount of awkwardness speaks to its tastefulness. There’s a lot to mock about Meet Joe Black, but beneath the highlights, beneath the funny accents, lies a movie with a strong heartbeat. It’s a love story between man and woman, and father and daughter. It’s a story of Death yes, but also a celebration of life. And it’s the reminder I need that someday, “Everyting gwarn be iree.” Cheers!