Film Review: Joe

They say that timing is everything, and this is completely true for my reasons for unashamedly saying: I like Nicolas Cage! It just happens that the teenage years in my life, the time when you graduate from PG and 12A films into the grown up world of 15s, fell at the exact moment Cage was producing some stellar work. Cinema was really starting to take hold on my life, and that was partly because Cage was releasing: Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off and Bringing Out The Dead before rounding off with Gone In 60 Seconds, which introduced Angelina Jolie to my life, but sadly not Vinnie Jones.

And while, for various reasons, Cage may have dropped the baton over the last few years (Kick-Ass aside), people have been lauding Joe as a return to form, a return to the Cage of old. The Nicolas Cage of my youth. And so it was with huge disappointment that nowhere locally was showing it. No Multiplex action, no independent art house screening. Just like Frank, Joe looked set to become another pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: visible from a distance, but ultimately unobtainable. And then I found it. On my latest revelation – Curzon Home Cinema.

Now, I didn’t really know anything about it apart from the reviews I’d heard, read and that it starred Cage and Tye Sheridan (who I’d previously seen in Mud and The Tree of Life) but Cage alone was enough. I didn’t see any point in looking any further. I sat down to watch it expecting to get a story, very similar to Mud, about the relationship between a man and a boy. But instead was treated to a film that I found fascinatingly entertaining and yet somehow completely confusing all at the same time.

While the plot does orbit around Joe (Cage) and Gary (Sheridan) and their relationship, that story actually plays an almost supporting role. This is a film about one man, Joe. This is a film about a breakdown from rehabilitation. A tale of how the actions of those affected by previous misdemeanours and the constantly attempt and belief in doing the right thing, trying to be the bigger man, ultimately, is futile when your view on the world and the actions you have to take are dictated so much by events beyond your control.

And that I didn’t expect. And that created a problem. There are parts of this film, usually the parts shared solely between Cage and Sheridan, that are brilliant, that are inspiring and thought provoking. However, huge swathes of Joe are bizarre or disconnected, or worse still unfathomable. Actions and events are played out on screen without seeming recompense or consequence and it’s this lack of follow up, that meant I found the film hard to believe. Suddenly it had gone from a film with real humility and reality, a grim dirtiness of modern life in the American South, to a film that created questions it left open and unanswered, so far removed from my life that I couldn’t accept they could play out as portrayed.

Then we meet Cage. While I agree with a lot of people that it is a return to form for him. This certainly is far, far removed from the failing children’s “Blockblusters” of recent years, he just isn’t right for the part. There is just something about him, something in the mannerisms and body language that never feel right. He is never quite the believable character you want him to be. You almost feel that this was a role written for the “new” Matthew McConaughey, the character, the dark inner turmoil he created in Rust Cohle in True Detective is exactly who Joe should have been, but there is no way this film could work with McConaughey in the lead because of True Detective and Mud. They would be too strong to stand up against, you don’t attempt to copy another’s work by asking them to do it for you. And that means you’re left feeling slightly short changed.

There is one huge positive though, Tye Sheridan. He really is the stand out winner of this film. It’s only his 3rd feature film, and for me, while I think it’ll have come too earlier, he’s got to be in for a nod for a little gold statue next February. Some people may argue that his performance only shines because it’s so similar to previous roles, or that those around him aren’t reaching their peak. You could quite easily have spun this film into “Gary” and given Sheridan the lead. It’s his story that grips you more than Joe’s.

Don’t be put off Joe though, I did enjoy it, yes it’s bizarre and dark and not what I was expecting in the slightest. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if I had known the plot and exact details of what I was going to see beforehand I probably wouldn’t have been quite so pressing to see it, but I’m glad I have. It’s still inside my head today, I’m still thinking about actions and events, looking for answers, creating my own questions. And that’s a good thing for any film to achieve.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.