Brow Beat

Why Is Meet Joe Black?

Explained.

Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black, for some reason.
Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black, for some reason.
Universal Pictures

Why does everyone seem to be talking about Meet Joe Black all of a sudden? Didn’t that movie come out in 1998?

They’re talking about it because of a tweet. This tweet. As of this writing, it’s been viewed more than 4 million times. I’ll give you a moment to watch the video.

Hey, it’s Claire Forlani. And there’s Brad Pitt. Why do they keep turning around to look at each other so many times? And isn’t it kind of unrealistic how Brad Pitt keeps stopping right in the middle of the street to—oh! Oh my gosh! He got hit!

Wait for it.

Oh!! He got hit!!!! Again!!!!!!!! Immediately!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah.

Is this the end of the movie or something? Let me guess, they’re star-crossed lovers who’ve been together a long time but are forced to part due to uncontrollable circumstances culminating in Brad Pitt’s untimely, tragicomic death?

Au contraire, my friend. This scene takes place at the beginning of the movie, and they just met. She fell in love with him pretty much immediately.

Sure, it’s 1990s-era Brad Pitt, I get it. But then he immediately dies? I am confused and distressed.

I can help relieve only one of those emotions, I’m afraid. Meet Joe Black is a loose remake of Death Takes a Holiday and stars Anthony Hopkins as Bill Parrish, a wealthy businessman who gets a visit from Death—like, the concept of Death. Death is interested in experiencing life as a human on Earth, so he (it?) inhabits the body of a man—that’s Brad Pitt—and eventually begins a romantic relationship with the businessman’s daughter, played by Forlani. Her character is named Susan.

Susan met Brad Pitt at a coffee shop, and then he got hit by the car, as we just saw, but she didn’t see that. When they meet again, the man’s body is being possessed by Death. Susan doesn’t know that, so she thinks he’s the same guy and that knows her dad and that he’s named Joe Black. They have sex by the swimming pool.

Sorry, she has sex with Death?

By the swimming pool, yes.

Anything else?

There’s a subplot in which Bill is being forced out of his company by Susan’s non-Death boyfriend, and it is resolved by Death posing as an IRS agent, and I am very sorry to tell you that he does in fact use the phrase “death and taxes.”

Can this movie possibly get any weirder?

It sure can. There’s an entire scene in which Death—who, again, is being played by Brad Pitt— speaks Jamaican patois.

No.

Yes.

Why?

They’re at a hospital because Susan works there, and a patient spots Death and recognizes his otherworldliness.

Again, 1990s-era Brad Pitt, understandable.

He reassures her in her own dialect that he’s not there to bring her to the afterlife yet and also he takes her pain away, because I guess that’s something Death can do?

What a box-office bomb this must have been.

Actually, it made $143 million. But it was also very expensive to make: reportedly $90 million, which was $30 million over budget, though the chairman of Universal Pictures at the time denied those reports. (He insisted that it was over budget “but not insanely over budget.”) According to the New York Times at the time, a $90 million budget “would be a record for a traditional romance.” How much of that was spent on the swimming pool, we don’t know for sure, though the Times article notes that it was built specifically for the film.

What director could possibly get away with something like that?

Martin Brest, whose previous three features were Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, and Scent of a Woman, all commercial and critical successes.

You know what, I think I’m going to watch it.

It is three hours long. And Brest’s next movie was Gigli.

Then how did it make $143 million?

Some people—especially overseas, where it made most of its money—really liked it! Although some people also just bought tickets to watch the trailer for The Phantom Menace, which was playing before the movie, then immediately got up and left.

On second thought, I’ll stick to watching the looped GIF of Brad Pitt getting hit over and over again.

Good choice.