Monday, April 14, 2014


I was kind of surprised to see that Joe was only showing up on one screen in the metro Boston area, and that one a multiplex; this is a thing that has been getting great reviews, and while David Gordon Green's art-house productions can sometimes be an acquired taste, this is a movie with a marquee-worthy star and a pretty solid plot. It is, in short, really accessible, and i wondered why there wasn't more accessing being done.

Well, as it turns out, we were lucky to get this much, as it's getting a day-and-date release on demand, and the local theaters, for the most part, avoid those like the plague. I've heard it's actually policy at AMC and Regal, although it appears that AMC will make exceptions in a few cases - the big Veronica Mars buy by Warner Brothers, for instance, and I wouldn't be totally shocked if Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions offered the chain a good incentive to put this on the "AMC Independent" schedule, which at least included some posters hung in the lobby. I kind of hate the way that while on-demand services are generally a good thing in terms of getting a movie to a broad audience while people are still talking about it (after living in Portland, ME and Worcester, MA, I know what it's like for them to never make it near me until they're old news), that also pulls them out of theaters because they rightly or wrongly don't think they can compete with VOD.

Sad, if true - although I know a lot of folks who will say that they don't think the theatrical experience is important for movies like Joe which don't have a lot of big action and visual effects, I do think the big-screen environment helps it immensely. It was, admittedly, a small audience when i saw it, but that probably owed as much to it being a 10pm show (I had other things on the schedule) than lack of interest.

Anyway, I suspect Joe won't be long for the theaters it's in, but it's well worth seeing. It may just be my favorite thing David Gordon Green has done and one of Nicolas Cage's best performances.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 12 April 2014 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, DCP)

Look at Joe, and you see a couple of people who haven't necessarily done their best work for the past few years. Some will say director David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche was a return to form after a string of crude Hollywood comedies, but even those who liked it more than I can look at star Nicolas Cage's career and point out that just doing one good movie doesn't put things back on the right track; you've got to stick with it. And while there's no guarantee that this is the start of a good run for either, it's the best work either has done for some time, both working at the top of their game to make a terrific movie.

The title character, played by Cage, makes a living poisoning trees with his crew - the logic being that the land's owners are prevented from repurposing this land while healthy trees are there, but if they die, it can be developed or replanted with profitable pines (as you might expect, this is an off-the-books cash business). His path intersects in a couple of ways with Gary (Tye Sheridan), a 15-year-old boy whose family has drifted into town, chased away from their last squat by Gary's father Wade (Gary Poulter) getting into trouble again. Joe gives both jobs, but only Gary impresses. And while Joe may be a better role model for Gary than Wade, that is a low, low bar to clear.

We are told, early on, that Joe has had his problems, and he talks about how so many of his decisions are made as a deliberate attempt at restraint. Restraint is, safe to say, not what Cage is best known for, and both he and Green make some good use of this: Even behind a full beard, there's often a sign of something feral in his eyes and an ever-increasing tightness in how he speaks and holds himself. This holds up even when he's softening around Gary, and that he does so is not totally surprising; for as much as he makes Joe a dangerous, combustible guy, it never seems odd that the people of this small town mostly seem to like him, there's something earnest along with the danger.

Full review at EFC

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