Sunday, 13 April 2014

Joe (2014) Film Review

Check it out... if you enjoyed the tone and setting for the film Mud, and would like to see a more serious role from both Tye Sheridan and the great Nicolas Cage.

Skip it... if a slow paced, near 2 hour film that takes place out in the middle of nowhere doesn't suit your appetite.

Joe poster
"Joe is a film which finds both Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage in career best form."

Nicolas Cage has for a long time been the joke of the film industry; even in his supposedly serious roles, he comes off as awkward and strange, and makes for a generally hilarious protagonist. Joe is different though. Here, Cage is given a genuinely serious role, backed by a very exact director, as well as a screenplay which handles some very deep and impactful subject material. If any film is going to allow me to see Cage in a serious light, this one certainly will. Directed by David Gordon Green, Joe is a film about how Cage's character, Joe, comes to form a bond with a kid called Gary (Sheridan), who has to provide for his mother and sister, whilst protecting them from his alcoholic of a father. It's been garnering a lot of good critical response from the film industry, so I found it on Putlocker (I'm not getting it in Australia!), and decided to sit down and take a look. 

The screenplay, written by Gary Hawkins, and adapted from the book by Larry Brown, is the real stand out for me. Sure, the acting and directing are both near spotless, but it's the screenplay that really worked. The dialogue, the slow progression for characters and their development, all of it was Hawkins' work, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. There are some utterly beautiful monologues within this movie, all that he adapted and wrote, so credit is due where credit is due. Unfortunately, the biggest positive of the film, also happens to be one of the biggest negatives. The pace of the film seems to be emanating from the screenplay as well; Gordon Green moves the film along as fast as it can go with what Hawkins has provided, yet the screenplay pretty much defines as to how slow the move trudges, and that is pretty slow. If you don't enjoy slow films, you'll utterly hate this. I enjoyed the tone and speed for quite a while, on the other hand, so in fact, I'm on the other side. I enjoy a slow film, but when something is so consistently set on removing even a little bit of pace, I have to mark it down.

Fortunately for Joe, that is the biggest fault I have with this film, and it's not that big a fault to me. The positives far outweigh any negative I have with this film. One of the major positives here is certainly the acting portion. As I've stated before, Cage is now attempting to move away from the silly roles that he has been given before, and is now attempting to do something a little more relatable and real. That's what he gives here ultimately, a real and relatable performance, with incredibly genuine moments. Tye Sheridan gives another stand out performance, and despite his age, is able to hold his own with a well known, experienced performer like Cage. I guess that's what happens when you work alongside Matthew McConaughey! Nonetheless, Joe is a film which finds both Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage in career best form. They both live out these characters whom you can believe do exist, who make decisions which we can see ourselves making. Cage and Sheridan aren't the only ones who give outstanding performances; Ronnie Gene Blevins gives a very strong performance, as well as the breakout star Gary Poulter, who plays the abusive alcoholic of a father to Gary. Poulter was in fact a homeless man before filming began, and had never properly acted before in his life. So that fact that his performance seems incredibly genuine is because it really is; he was kind of like his character on screen. Unfortunately, Poulter was found dead a few months after filming ended, which is a grave disappointment for myself. He had a shit-ton of talent, that much is clear, and to see him go out after such a rich performance kind of makes me sad. Nonetheless, as a whole, the acting front is utterly perfect. There isn't a single performance I can pull out and criticise, as they're all so incredibly good.

From a directing stand point, this film is on par with some of the better films we've seen in the past few years. A lot of shots are held for incredibly long periods of time, and this only leads to the film being more engrossing than it already is. The first scene in the entire film is filmed with less than 3 cuts in all, and it's utterly sensational. Even the moments where characters aren't speaking, just looking at someone or something, Gordon Green makes somewhat interesting. He can honestly do no wrong, despite the fact that based on his filmography, he seems out of his comfort zone. Gordon Green is mostly known for doing comedies, most of them less than acceptable, such as Your Highness and The Sitter. So the fact that he can get out and create a serious, perilous and entrancing drama like Joe is all the more outstanding. I can see a lot more projects for this man, and I'll tell you straight up, I'll be seeing them.

In conclusion, despite Joe being an incredibly slow film at times, David Gordon Green's direction is utterly without fault. The screenplay is beautiful, the performances resoundingly touching, and every shot is interesting and has a purpose. One of the best films of the year, for sure.


Junkie Score: 9.2
Worth Admission Price? Yes

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