Bill Parrish - Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, Shadowlands)
Joe Black - Brad Pitt (Legends of the Fall, Se7en, Thelma and Louise)
Susan Parrish - Claire Forlani (The Rock)
Allison - Marcia Gay Harden (First Wives Club, Flubber)
Quince - Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show)
Director: Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Last Boy Scout, Top Gun)
Previews: Prince of Egypt, Patch Adams
The plot is straightforward and set-forth immediately. Hopkins is dying, death visits, and is so intrigued with Hopkins spirit, in life, and in dealing with his impending situation, that his curiosity over human emotion, and reaction to him, that he finally decides he has found a guide, and wants to know more. What follows is a series of building situations, discoveries, and revelations, into each of the characters.
Hopkins has two daughters, the fawned over Forlani, and the seemingly neglected Harden. Hopkins has an intense initial face-to-face Pitt, as the most attractive, appealing grim reaper, in history. The intensity of this opening meeting was similar to that of Hopkins and Jodie Foster in Silence...less chilling, but a similarly powerful, requiring little dialogue to explain the moment, but rather making a statement and doing something that I admire, letting the audience think. Giving them enough to understand, and letting them come up with the rest. The middle, during the playing out of the situations, development of things, lingers a bit but never too long, and then builds into a wonderfully powerful finish, that you may, or may not see coming.
Hopkins, as expected, is wonderful, (but, he has set such a high-bar for himself, that he can be amazing, and still not blow people away, because it's almost expected). He is confidant, powerful, and a nice, rich guy, a rarity these days. Controlling, without being egotistical or power hungry. Pitt is good as well, downplaying his dramatic side a bit, although it is baffling to me how an all-seeing entity such as death could not know about peanut butter..but that's just me. He brings the curiosity of someone baffled by the emotions he causes, with childishly innocent, yet calmly confident charm. Forlani is a bit of a weak link in the casting, although against these two heavyweights, it's easy to get overshadowed. She is charming, and innocent, but never really shows much believable emotion, and honestly, could've been played any number of actresses who were as easy on the eyes as she is. She is not bad by any stretch, but in this cast, she is the weakest of the performances.
The strongest supporting performance comes from Harden, another faceless journeyman actress, who has been in a lot of movies, but whose name many can never recall. She is honestly emotional, in her portrayal of the overlooked daughter, who has accepted her place in life, and not let it affect who she is. A powerful performance
This movie could have gone off in so many directions, so easily, and convoluted itself, but it stays true to its course, acknowledging each idea, dealing with it, and continuing upon the set course of things. Brest knew what he wanted to do, and he did it, never wavering, nor rushing, to get to his point, until he was sure it had been made.
The emotions are dealt with like real people, instead of movie characters would, no cliched lines, no foreshadowing statements, just true, honest, expressions of love, sadness, and acceptance. It is never preachy, or sappy, but is brutally honest. The director shows confidence by not rushing the story and letting you know and feel the characters, yet never dwelling too deep. It lingers a bit on these emotions, sometimes a bit longer than they should.
This is a simple movie, with a simple plot, about a serious subject. The movie solves its own dilemma. It is at peace with itself. The pacing is a tad slow at times, but never stops, similar to a sightseer, allowing you to see everything, without having to stop and get out to do such.
In closing, since it appears that Hollywood has decided to try to make a more pleasant vision of the afterlife (this movie and What Dreams May Come)..I will offer my comparison, and why this one is far better. Dreams was a vision, a stunning one, but a movie one, full of explosions of color, overemotionalizing, and cliched statements and scenes. Few of us believe that movie could be real, but many may be able to look at this one and say "Yeah, I could see that," I hearken back to the fact that this movie is real, honest, and deals with everything at a pace we can understand, and believe. It is simple, in its dealing with complex issues, without slamming us with too much, or ever becoming too preachy. It lets the viewer absorb everything it gives you, deal with it, and then move on, whether accepting or denying, instead of force feeding you until you choke on it. Block 3 hours out of your schedule and see this one as soon as you can.($$$$)
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