2013 / Director. David Gordon Green.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
JOE was my least anticipated film at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival. It was the last one I chose on my schedule and it was more of a filler than anything else. It is a strange film to have on the festival line-up because it's not exactly new and it has already been released to DVD in the US. Nevertheless I had heard good things and so I was more than happy to give it a go. I am really glad I gave it the time. This is a remarkable film. It tells the story of Joe (derr) an ex-con who has a good heart and bad luck. Wanting only to stick to his work and fuck prostitutes he has an uncanny knack for attracting trouble. A 15 year old boy comes into his life, wanting work, and the two develop and unlikely bond. Trouble is chasing both of these two characters and the film explores their relationship in a powerful and compelling way. I sure as hell wasn't expecting JOE to be as confronting as it was and it doesn't muck around. My expectation was something more in line with the film MUD but what I got was closer to the darker dramas of SLING BLADE and WINTER'S BONE. Nicholas Cage certainly has become something of a Hollywood joke in recent years but people often forget that he's still a remarkable actor. He's still the guy who made LEAVING LAS VEGAS and WILD AT HEART and he can still deliver the goods. With his excellent performance in FROZEN GROUND recently, he has managed two amazing films back to back. JOE is the best thing he's done in years. Director David Gordon Green has captured the Southern American poverty-life skilfully. All of the characters feel as though they could be locals, plucked from the streets and plonked into the film. in fact the director is known to do that in his films. The script is wonderful too with all of the key characters really well explored. Tye Sheridan is stunning as the 15 year old kid with a world full of burden on his shoulders (coincidentally he also starred in MUD) and possibly the most incredible performance of the film belongs to Gary Poulter who plays the boy's drunken and abusive father. His story is heartbreaking. Having never acted before in his life, he was discovered homeless on the streets of Austin and cast in the movie. His performance is award worthy and tragically he later died on the same streets he was discovered, only weeks after the film wrapped. There is something beautiful knowing that his one brush with fame was something as powerful and mesmerising as JOE. It's a brilliant film that I cannot wait to see again.