Monday, April 21, 2014
Joe (2013 film)
Based on the novel by Larry Brown, Joe is the story of a 15-year old boy who meets an ex-convict as the man would become a surrogate father figure from the boy’s troubled home life. Directed by David Gordon Green and screenplay by Gary Hawkins, the film is an exploration into a man taking in a boy that needed help as he also seeks redemption for his past sins. Starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. Joe is an entrancing yet heartfelt film from David Gordon Green.
The film is an exploration into an ex-convict who runs a lumber company as he hires a young boy who had just moved into town with his alcoholic and abusive father. It’s a film where this man who tries to maintain a low-key lifestyle as he deals with his own sins and not get into trouble despite the presence of a few young and eager police officers who want to nab him as they think he is trouble. Yet, Joe (Nicolas Cage) just wants to do his work and live a quaint life while helping out this young boy Gary (Tye Sheridan) who works to help his very poor family as Gary finds a father-figure in Joe while old demons come creeping into Joe’s life in order to make things uneasy for him.
Gary Hawkins’ screenplay doesn’t play into any kind of traditional structure as it’s more about a man trying to restrain himself from getting into any trouble as he would often visit a local brothel, visit a few people, and run his tree-poisoning company with the help of men whom he pays fairly. When Gary stumbles into Joe’s line of work, Joe hires him as he is aware of how hard-working Gary is as he is a kid that doesn’t take shit from anyone despite the abuse he deals with his from his father Wade (Gary Poulter). Wade is an immoral drunk that wants to drink as he will do anything for booze as he would abuse his son as well as do things to his teenaged mute daughter Dorothy that Gary is protective of.
Joe does see something in Gary that intrigues him as he would also help the boy in not just dealing with his father but also in how to survive and become a man. Gary would unveil a side of Joe that was lost as he had been in trouble with the law as he is considered untrustworthy Though the locals who know him do trust him and see him as a good guy trying to do good again, there are those who want to create hell for Joe as they would even try to create trouble for Gary. Eventually as Wade would meet these men and force Joe and Gary to an uneasy standoff to save Gary’s family.
David Gordon Green’s direction is very mesmerizing as it recalls some of his early work with its emphasis on beautiful images to play into the world of rural and working-class small towns in Texas with these hypnotic images of nature. Yet, Green would infuse that mix of beauty and ugliness to play into Joe’s desire to live his life and not cause any trouble as much of Green’s direction includes a lot of medium shots and close-ups to play into Joe’s state of mind. Green has this very eerie approach to these compositions and how it plays into the world that Joe has created as he surrounds himself with weak pine trees that he needed to poison and make sure that they’re weak enough to be cut down so new ones can grow.
In shooting in locations nearby Austin and other small towns in Texas, the film definitely has a grimy yet majestic feel that plays true to the atmosphere of the American South. Even as it has that sense of darkness where lawlessness can happen as it would play into that world of suspense where Wade and the men from Joe’s past would try and cause some trouble. Eventually as it leads to this dark climax where Joe would try to find redemption for himself and do something for the life of this young boy he’s become close to. Overall, Green crafts a very haunting yet powerful drama about a man who comes to the aid of a young boy.
Cinematographer Tim Orr does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for much of the film‘s exterior scenes in the forests and rivers along with some low-key lighting for some of the film‘s interiors as it plays to that mix of beauty and ugliness. Editor Colin Patton does fantastic work with the editing as it is stylized with its use of jump-cuts and dissolves as it plays to its suspense and drama. Production designer Chris L. Spellman and set decorator Helen Britten do amazing work with the look of the homes that Joe and Gary lives as it doesn‘t just play into their personalities but also the look of rural Texas as it‘s a world that still has some semblance of tradition and not be distracted by the modern world.
Costume designers Karen Malecki and Jill Newell do nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual to play into that rural look of the film. Sound editor Lewis Goldstein does superb work with the sound to play into natural atmosphere of the locations as well as the layering of voices in some of the conversations that happen. The film’s music by Jeff McIlwain and David Wingo is excellent for its ambient-based score that is very somber and melancholic to play into the sense of loss and loneliness that Joe lives while music supervisors Gerry Cueller, Greg Danylyshyn, and Devoe Yates create a soundtrack that mixes hard rock, folk, and country music.
The casting by Karmen Leech and John Williams is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Brian Mays as Joe’s second-in-command at the lumber company, Heather Kafka as a young hooker named Lacy John Daws as the police captain who keeps an eye on Joe knowing that Joe isn’t really trouble, Brenda Isaacs Booth as Gary’s mother, and Anna Niemtschk as Gary’s mute-sister Dorothy. Sue Rock is terrific as the aging brothel madame Merle while Adriene Mishler is wonderful as Joe’s sometimes-lover Connie. Ronnie Gene Blevins is excellent as the criminal Willie who wants to put Joe into trouble as he would also have a bad encounter with Gary who beats him up. Gary Poulter is brilliant as Gary’s alcoholic father Wade as a man who drowns his sorrows into alcohol as it’s a performance that is just engaging to watch as he is definitely a scene-stealer as the film would be dedicated to him as he died before its release.
Tye Sheridan is brilliant as Gary as this young 15-year old kid who struggles to help his family as he works for Joe and does whatever to help Joe out as he also comes to him as someone in need of a father figure as it’s definitely a real showcase for Sheridan who can be an equal to his co-star. Finally, there’s Nicolas Cage in a remarkable performance as the titular character as a man who likes to keep his life simple and not-so-complicated as he befriends a young boy whom he would care for as it’s a role that has Cage being funny but also brooding and intense as it’s definitely his best performance in a very long time after some years of weird and bad performances.
Joe is a phenomenal film from David Gordon Green that features a tremendous performance from Nicolas Cage as the titular character along with a superb performance from Tye Sheridan. It’s a film that not only marks a return-to-form from Cage but also for Green after a period of disappointing comedies as he returns to his roots. Especially in the way he explores the world of the American South and tell a story about a man and a boy who would help each other. In the end, Joe is an outstanding film from David Gordon Green.
David Gordon Green Films: George Washington - All the Real Girls - Undertow - Snow Angels - Pineapple Express - (Your Highness) - (The Sitter) - (Prince Avalanche) - (Manglehorn)
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