Since the late ‘90s, I have spent a lot of time at various social functions trying to convince people to watch Meet Joe Black. Contrary to popular belief, I did not direct it. I just really love this earnest, dumb, huge sloppy joe of a movie. I am not financially compensated for this campaigning, nor does it win me any points with friends. People usually reply with the same thing: “I have watched it and it is terrible,” or “No, it’s supposed to be terrible,” or “It is three hours long and you already made me watch it several times with you,” or “I am Brad Pitt’s lawyer and you are violating the terms of his restraining order.”
I want to be clear: Meet Joe Black is actually three hours and one minute long. Detractors of the film argue, among other things, that this is far too long by any standard. But the thing about our current reality, in which not even Tom Hanks can escape the effects of a global pandemic, is that we are no longer bound by any standard. Nor are we bound by the concept of social functions. In quarantine (self-imposed or not), time is now stretched out ahead of us like a uniquely terrible red carpet, or the gaping maw of an intensely gravitational black hole. If we feel any moral responsibility toward our community and the globe at large, and/or a fever, we owe it to each other to stay the fuck at home for the next few weeks (at the very least).
And if the prospect of staying at home horrifies you, it’s important to trick yourself into locking yourself down. A fun way to do this is in three-hour increments. Personally, I have been mostly unable to do anything over the past week or so except for look at Twitter, panic, cry about our lack of a social safety net and abundance of authoritarian government officials, have a nightmare about looking at Twitter and panicking, call my parents and yell at them to stay home, consider ways in which to harass my grandparents’ nursing home into lockdown, buy various types of echinacea, and feel FOMO for events that are not actually happening anymore. The only thing that helps me get out of my head, at least momentarily, is to watch a really long movie.
For example: The other night, I watched the movie Margaret, the director’s cut of which is three hours and six minutes long. It is an insanely bleak movie about the irredeemable brokenness of modern society, but the 246 minutes it took to immerse myself in its stark storyline distracted me from our own irredeemably broken society, and at least temporarily helped me clear my head so I could calmly resume alienating everyone I love by ranting about social distancing (an effective social distancing technique, incidentally). What I’m trying to tell you is that there is no time like the present to join the Meet Joe Black hive, population several. Why would you want to do this, you ask? What the fuck else are you going to do, watch The Irishman?
Meet Joe Black has other things going for it besides “being three hours and one minute.” I recommend watching it in a bathtub for maximum effect. It involves a scene where Brad Pitt is hit by two cars at once and then is possessed by the spirit of Death himself, who goes on to quietly fuck the daughter of the man he is trying to bring with him to the Underworld. There is another scene where Brad Pitt — who, being Death, is a virgin — has sex and his bleached tips sort of gently shake. Anthony Hopkins plays a Mostly Good Dad and it’s very heartwarming. We all need a Mostly Good Dad right now. Claire Forlani and Marcia Gay Harden throw Anthony Hopkins a massive birthday party and nobody worries about accidentally killing someone by merely touching the same surface. There is an indoor pool. There are drawn-out conversations about death and pain and Brad Pitt’s ass, a trio I like to call “The Depressive’s Special.” The soundtrack is full of violins, which are the perfect instrument for making you remember the inherent beauty of the human experience and then making you cry really hard about how badly we messed it all up. Brad Pitt sucks on a spoon covered in peanut butter. At one point he speaks in Jamaican Patois and you’re like, “Absolutely what was going on in the year 1998?”
And then, you’re welcome, three hours and one minute have passed. Only 600 more viewings of Meet Joe Black to go!