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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Movie Review - Joe

Joe (2014)
Starring Nicholas Cage, Tye Sheridan, and Gary Poulter
Directed by David Gordon Green
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Nicolas Cage has become such a joke lately that anytime he's in a movie that carries any semblance of merit, it's somewhat shocking.  As the title character, Cage's Joe is a marble-mouthed mumbling ex-con who is trying to get his life together by running a tree-removal company in very rural Texas.  Well-liked by most, Joe still struggles to keep his violent tendencies in check.  When young Gary (Tye Sheridan) meets Joe one afternoon and asks him for a job, Joe obliges and a friendship begins to form between the two.  Gary has struggled with his horrible father Wade (Gary Poulter) beating him, his sister, and his mother and the young boy finds a calmness in the cool attitude of Joe.  When the alcoholic and destitute Wade discovers his son's new friendship, it doesn't sit well and Joe finds himself in the crosshairs of a father who wants to keep his son underneath his thumb.

While Cage is certainly the "star" here, despite being the title character, Joe doesn't particularly belong to him as a film.  Instead the relationship between Gary and his father Wade is the most striking aspect of the melancholic and somewhat heavy film.  Tye Sheridan was introduced to the cinematic scene with The Tree of Life and Mud -- two films that showed potential in the young actor that really comes to light here.  There's a naturalness to Sheridan that shows promise for his future.

Outshining both Cage and Sheridan, however, is Gary Poulter as the rather terrifying Wade.  This was Poulter's one and only role as the first-time actor died before the film's release.  I'm not sure I've seen a role inhabited in 2014 that felt as lived-in as Poulter's Wade.  Perhaps the reason Wade strikes a chord is that Poulter himself was found by director David Gordon Green living homeless on the streets of Austin, Texas.  When you talk about something feeling natural onscreen, I'm not sure it can get much more "real" than Poulter who struggled throughout his life with alcoholism and eventually died on the streets because of it.  It's really a bravura performance that is frighteningly captured onscreen.

While the film itself is a little drawn out, slowly paced, and focuses too much on Cage's Joe who simply isn't all that compelling, Joe is certainly worth a watch if only for the terrifying relationship between Gary and his father Wade and the performances of Sheridan and the deceased Poulter.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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