Joe - 4 out of 5
Joe has a simple title, a title that doesn’t give away a damn thing about what the movie is about…other than assuming it is about a guy (maybe a girl) named Joe. However, simplicity is what makes this film work as it is all about the simplest thing in life that is incredibly simple with its simplicity that is simple: human drama.
|What's in your dreams? A shark or something?|
Joe (Nicolas Cage) is an ex-con who is trying to live life the best he can with his small business. Sure, he spends some time downing bottles of booze and getting to know hookers on a personal level but the effort is clearly there. One day, he meets a 15 year old boy who comes wandering onto his job site and asks for a job. Joe, reluctantly, gives this boy Gary (Tye Sheridan) a job and, eventually, befriends the kid. He learns that Gary’s family is stuck in a very bad rut. They're poor and living out of a condemned home, his sister is catatonic and his father is an abusive drunk. Joe starts to help Gary with his situation but soon finds himself at a crossroad that will either see Joe finally get on the straight and honorable or down a much darker path.
|I said a "darker path" but that doesn't mean I'm going to do an easy joke about his less|
than stellar career choices.
Joe isn’t a flashy film filled with clever editing, witty one-liners, and over-the-top acting. Nope, instead (like I said in the first paragraph), the movie is just a simple view into human drama. Sure, the movie’s story may have elements that aren’t too common with everyday people in the real world but, at the end of it all, anyone watching it can relate to what they are seeing. You can understand the conundrum that Joe is in as he involves himself in Gary’s life and you can understand Gary’s struggle to get out of the terrible life he is currently trapped in. That’s what makes this film so strong. Sure, occasionally, the story got a little chaotic as you see Joe try to come to terms with the burden that has fallen in his lap and he must decide if he will help or just move on but it all ends up working thanks to the overall drama and the performances from the actors.
Director David Gordon Green, the man who gave us the awesome film Snow Angels and also directed Pineapple Express (really?), Your Highness (wait, is this information accurate?) and The Sitter—wait a god damn second! The same dude who helmed a bad Adventures in Babysitting wannabe with Jonah Hill directed this movie? Eh, I guess that shows how talented and multifaceted he is because he really is capable of highlighting the actors’ performances and the overall depressing tone of the film. It would also explain why Danny McBride was a producer. Not only are the players giving their all with showing you what they are going through, Green emphasizes that with his camera work and use of dull color tones.
|Pictured: Dull tones...and Cage in a Pantera shirt.|
Just like in Mud, Tye Sheridan gives a tremendous performance that shows talent beyond his years. The kid has a bright future that hopefully won’t be destroyed by jealous older actors who can’t match his level of talent. The kid really nails the determined boy who is so frustrated with his current position in life that he will do anything to get out of it.
|"You should see the other guy...he would probably look worse if I was able to get a hit in."|
Then you have Nic Cage…Cage is an actor that gets a lot of hate but, and I say this a lot, I am a fan of the guy because he is one of the most unique actors in the biz. Yes, he overacts a lot but his overacting is unlike anything else out there. He doesn’t chew the scenery that way the community theater drama coach does and has spent a lifetime thinking he’s the greatest without anyone being honest with him and telling him he should stick to working the photo department at Walgreens. Instead, Cage made his overacting an art form of unique intensity and insanity. That being said though, he is also capable of being a legitimate dramatic actor and he shows that in this film. In fact, this may be one of his greatest performances to date…with the exception of him screaming about bees and punching women in the face while wearing a bear suit. Nothing can compare to that majesty.
|Fun Note: Cage also played the dog...and he already owned the costume.|
The film made headlines when, shortly after filming wrapped, the man who played Gary’s father, Gary Poulter, was found dead. Poulter was a homeless man cast by director David Gordon Green because the director likes to cast locals in his production and, even though the man met a terrible end before the film was even released, Poulter’s performance was show-stealing. The man felt like an authentic homeless and abusive father. I get it that he was really homeless and that’s why the homeless aspect of the character looked real but, being that he’s not a working actor, it would have been easy for the guy to give a wooden performance but he didn’t. He looked like a natural actor who grew a bad beard, messed his hair up and decided, for artistic purposes, to give up showering so he could really get into his role. Poutler was just incredible and really made his character both despicable but depressing and very haunting.
|He looks like a homeless and much older Jeff Daniels.|
Joe is a simple movie with an easy story that, even if you’re not a homeless kid struggling with abuse issues from his drunk father or an ex-con running a business that kills trees in order for newer, stronger ones can take their place and is suddenly thrown into a situation where he must decide whether or not to help a troubled youth, one can easily identify with the struggles that the characters are undergoing and that is the magic of the film and what made it very engrossing to watch. And now that Cage got that great acting out of his system for a few years, he can go back to the crazy stuff that I love from him so much…like taking on the Rapture and stealing Kirk Cameron’s bread and butter.