Rugged Texas drama covers male role models well but often falls flat making for a disappointing experience
Once again we have a director who has endeavoured in the american indie film market, involving himself heavily in a film David Gordon Green’s content is often highly praised. Last year it was Prince Avalanche that gained an award at the Berlin Film Festival and raised his recognition as a director. However arguably his most famous piece is Pineapple Express a comedy that shows he is able to direct a diverse range of stories.
Joe centres on an ex convict who runs a tree logging business that isn’t exactly legal whilst dealing with his own life of alcohol and loneliness. When a young teenager looks to him for help he must struggle with his past in order to be some sort of role model.
Whenever a new Nicholas Cage film comes out there’s always a certain amount of buzz that comes with that, everyone immediately starts thinking of his trademark freak outs and the film suddenly gets a whole audience. However this isn’t always a good thing no matter how much fun those many Gifs are we all recognise that Cage has done some truly terrible films. That’s not to say he hasn’t done anything good in fact far from it with films like Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation and the never ageing action Con Air all show what he can do. The discussion of whether Cage is a good actor or not has long been disputed (expertly parodied in Community) with most people agreeing that he sits somewhere in the middle.
However what really drew me to this film pre-release was that it seemed Cage had chosen a withdrawn character, who although was central is far more subtle than his previous work. Its this that makes the bases of some of the best points of the film as we see Joe working hard everyday alongside his band of other men who are just trying to make a living. This spills out into the teenager of Gary played by Tye Sheridan who started his career pretty quickly in appearing in Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life and here it’s another one of those great young performances. Struggling with abuse from his alcoholic father whilst trying to do right for his mother and sister has made Gary a tough but determined teenager. It’s this that leads him to Joe who at first is a reluctant hero just wanting to get by in life and this shared connection starts a friendship. This should really have played out better than it did however the film’s pace really struggled to match the extremities of the plot. The middle of the film really starts dragging at a point when the two central characters relationship really should of moved forward.
Although the film never quite lives up to the plot and it’s two main characters this doesn’t diminish the performance of Tye Sheridan who really captures the torture of such a young man. In creating true tension and despair a lot of recognition has to go to Gary Poulter which immediately sent me trying to find out who this surely veteran actor was. It was with shock like many that I found out that Poulter was in fact a homeless man in Texas recruited by the casting team. Whilst this makes for a very authentic character the story is deeply saddening as Poulter ended up drowning following alcohol abuse in February.
There are a number of fine qualities to this film not the least the quality of acting that matches the tough surroundings of a small village in Texas. Unfortunately it never quite reaches the levels that you would hope but this really needs to be seen for the very real performance of Poulter which is completely unforgettable considering the tragic events following the films completion.