Sunday, April 6, 2014

DIFF 2014 Review: JOE - Javi's Take

Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Based on a novel by Larry Brown, Gary Hawkins
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, and Ronnie Gene Blevins
Synopsis: A man tries to take a young boy trying to provide for his family under his wing. 

Director David Gordon Green has had a very varied career to say the least, going from indie dramas like ALL THE REAL GIRLS to a stoner comedy, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. After 2013’s PRINCE AVALANCHE, it seems that he is going back to the style of his first efforts. With JOE, he directed a surprisingly violent drama about a young boy (Sheridan) with an abusive alcoholic father and a troubled but good-hearted man played by Nicolas Cage. The film is beautifully shot and features one of the best scores in recent memory. The performances are amazing, but the movie as a whole is a tonal mess.

The aspect of the movie that was the most impressive was the camera work. It had a very natural fluidity that gave the movie a very intimate feel. Taking place a in a rural Texas town, Gordon Green chooses to focus a lot on both the ugly parts such as the decrepit and messy buildings, houses and trucks, all while highlighting some of the beautiful nature of the surrounding area. That juxtaposition of ugly and beauty, drama and comedy, adult life and childhood all seem to be the central struggle of the movie. 

Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan both give amazing performances in their own rights. Cage manages to dial down his more eccentric persona for the sake of the movie and creates a very nuanced character. Joe is both troubled by his more naturally aggressive nature that is always on the surface, but that doesn't stop him from being a very "honest, salt-of-the-earth" hard worker that is instantly taken by Gary. Sheridan was first discovered during last year's MUD, where he starred opposite of Matthew MaConaughey, and building off of that, he is starts showing just how much he has grown as an actor. Gary isn't just a dumb kid with a simple world view. He's been places, he's known struggles and that shows on his face through the scars given to him by his father, and the way that he mans up and starts for working for Joe to try to provide for his family because his father can't and won't.

As alluded earlier, the movie has a big issue in that it's very hard to tell exactly what its trying to be. The score is one of the best in a while, but it also has the effect of making the movie feel much more heavier in scenes, such as Joe and his crew working out in the woods, should be. Not only that but there's some pretty funny scenes that are sandwiched in between some very dark ones, further lending to the confusion about the tone. Is this supposed to be a drama with funny moments or a dark comedy? One can't be sure. For all of the rather intimate and simple aspects of the movie during the majority of it, JOE unfortunately devolves into a action movie-esque showdown that feels like it was put in just to wrap up the movie quickly. And finally, it should be noted that this is a very surprisingly violent movie both towards animals and humans that made the audience gasp more than a few times.

Despite all of this, JOE is an achievement for Gordon Green, Sheridan, and Cage. They are all bringing some terrific work to the table and are able to tell this beautifully dark movie. 

No comments:

Post a Comment