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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 38.0° F  Overcast and Breezy
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Meet Joe Black

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My whole life passed before my eyes while watching Meet Joe Black--three hours of it did, anyway. Like death itself, the movie's unconscionably long, but it doesn't deserve the drubbing it's been getting from critics. In fact, if it were about an hour shorter, it would join City of Angels as one of this year's best Hollywood movies about life, death and the spiritual DMZ in between. His hair practically serving as a separate character, Brad Pitt plays the personification of death (considerably warmed over). And Anthony Hopkins is the media mogul whose time has come. The thing is, Death wants a little taste of what, uh, life is like on this side of the great divide. And so, having assumed Pitt's body (if I were Death, I'd assume Pitt's body), he follows the mogul around as he puts his various affairs in order.

You'll be glad to hear they don't play chess. Based on Death Takes a Holiday, a '20s stage play that got turned into a '30s movie starring Fredric March, Meet Joe Black has Death falling in love with the boss' daughter (Claire Forlani)--actually, not just falling in love but making love with the boss' daughter. Only in Hollywood would this be considered a respectable way for the Grim Reaper to spend his time. Meet Joe Black is fairly dripping in Hollywood sentimentality, and yet...and yet there's something so life-affirming about Pitt and Forlani's jaw-dropping beauty, which director Martin Brest can't seem to get enough of. As E.T. with bone structure, Pitt does only a passable job, but who cares? He's gorgeous. It's Hopkins, as the man who has it all, who puts us in touch with our own mortality--the fact that we only live once, if that.

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