" William Parrish: I do think this is the lightning you're looking for! "
Written by Thomas Glorieux
- Review of
the regular release
Meet Joe Black of director Martin Brest has always received a mixed bag of criticism. It's like 50% thinks the world of it, and the other 50% finds it overlong, uninteresting and not important if one could see Scent of a Woman instead. Of course as usual, I'm in the middle of it too. Though it's hardly another Scent of a Woman masterpiece, I quite like it. Mostly because it has interesting characters, loveable and hateable people that one can relate to. But there is something else too. Because when you hear them laughing, arguing and talking to one another, there is always that magical material of one Thomas Newman that elevates those scenes higher and higher.
Because let's face it, Meet Joe Black is one of Thomas Newman's magnus opuses. A grand orchestral score that has all his trademarks, but they are deliciously overblown and emotionally unparalleled. It's like Thomas Newman just added an extra layer to an already powerful score, making his final piece overblown but also enormously breathtaking. No room for subtlety here, it's Thomas Newman putting the capital letter E in the word emotional, blowing us away with a finale you'll remember.
Thomas Newman remains Thomas Newman however, and soft dreamy music will always remain one of his trademark sounds. The dialogue aside, "Yes" doesn't give anything away, fooling both the viewer as the listener with a dreamy piece of music. The jubilant "Everywhere Freesia" brings back happy memories of the college music of Scent of a Woman, while one of Thomas Newman's strongest themes never sounds so delicate and more beautiful than in "Walkaway". As one could predict, this theme becomes the backbone of the whole score. It returns lovely in "Cold Lamb Sandwich" and it puts you in pure ecstasy during the mesmerizing "That Next Place". By far it's one of the boldest emotional pieces Thomas Newman has ever composed.
The character Death, that is discovered in the body that Brad Pitt took receives a personal sound too, and it's not surprising his sound is cold ala death. This is discovered through the piano in "Meet Joe Black", "A Frequent Thing" and "Sorry for Nothing". Another personal sound for Death is his curiosity. Not only the questions but the things he tastes and discovers are interwoven in Thomas Newman's eclectic style. Luckily this quirky taste is not forgettable, and like Scent of a Woman it jumps upon you with a loud distinctive sound (clarinet and piano) in "Peanut Butter Man", "Fifth Ave." and "Mr. Bad News". Because even in those quirky times, Thomas Newman surprises you with his (and perhaps Death's) wit.
But Death stays on earth for another reason too. And that reason is Susan. The chance and the feeling to finally discover love, respect and intimate feelings is not something he wants to give up lightly. The desires that grow through the wonderful romantic music in "Whisper of a Thrill" are magnificent, returning briefly in "Served Its Purpose". And it's not until 2.30 in "Someone Else" that Death finds out he's actually wrong, and that Susan has fell in love with the character of the body he took. The surging dramatic fanfare at the end of this cue states that Death has made the right choice. Which leads to one of movie's grandest finales, one of Thomas Newman's biggest orchestral crowd pleasers, one of filmmusic's most adored moments.
The songs that are discovered during these last tracks might bother some, but I think they are a part of that magical feeling of the party, the resurrection of Death's initial intentions and the revelation of the truth. That truth might feel like utterly unbelievable romanticism for some (making death appear to be nothing but a stroll over a bridge, under the glowing magnificent sound of fireworks). But that is part of the charm, part of the unbridled optimistic romanticism of the movie and initial score. You see, sometimes you can paint death differently. Sometimes you don't need to see it as a departure of life, but as a realization that you have accomplished everything there was in life. And that it has been enough. Knowing it's only fiction, I want my final stroll to be so unbelievably soaring too. Highly recommended this Thomas Newman score is.
1. Yes (2.05)
2. Everywhere Freesia (1.45)
3. Walkaway (1.52) Excellent track
4. Meet Joe Black (1.44)
5. Peanut Butter Man (1.39)
6. Whisper of a Thrill (5.43) Excellent track
7. Cheek to Cheek: Irving Berlin (1.23)
8. Cold Lamb Sandwich (1.43)
9. Fifth Ave. (1.11)
10. A Frequent Thing (0.54)
11. Death and Taxes (1.15)
12. Served Its Purpose (1.25)
13. Sorry for Nothing (0.45)
14. Mr. Bad News (1.37)
15. Let's Face the Music and Dance: Irving Berlin (1.23)
16. The Question (1.23)
17. Someone Else (5.19) Excellent track
18. What a Wonderful World * (3.28) Excellent track
19. That Next Place (10.09) Excellent track
20. Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (4.53) Excellent track
* Written by George Weiss and Bob Thiele
Total Length: 51.36