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Joe

What He said:

He

Gary is a good kid. A hell of a lot better person than his parents, that’s for sure. His father Wade (Gary Poulter) is a full-blown alcoholic. I’m talking about the doesn’t work, take care of his house, or do anything productive, but rather drinks in fields, under bridges, or along the side of the road type of alcoholic. This man is well beyond the point of doing anything productive. He gets up with no other goals, but to get drunk. His mother appears to be the same, but at least she doesn’t beat him like Wade does time-after-time.

Joe

Anyway, Gary (Tye Sheridan) is a hard-working kid who wants to make a better life for himself. Gary and his family live in poverty – and God knows he didn’t get his work ethic from either one of his parents – but Gary is determined to fine honest work.  This is how he meets Joe.

Joe (Nicolas Cage) is the owner of a small tree-removal company. He has a criminal past, but is a well-liked guy by both his employees and members of the community. He’s got demons, but seems a peace with them – at least for now. Sure, he frequents a local brothel and drinks a lot, but I’m not speaking more to how he treats people.

Wandering through the woods one day, Gary comes across Joe and his men. He asks what it is they are doing and eventually asks them for a Job. Joe gives him a chance and is impressed by the young man’s determination and work ethic. Gary says the family really needs money and asks if he can bring his father along the next day. It’s kind of obvious it’s not going to work out. Wade can barely stand, so we know as soon as Gary asks Joe for a job for his dad, the guy isn’t going to last long.

There is also a subplot involving a resident creeper named Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins). Willie has a little history with Joe and is about to create one with Gary. They are separate events and Gary nor Joe is aware of the other’s encounter with this weirdo.

The description of this movie sounded similar to Mud, which both of us loved. I don’t mean that the plot sounded the same, just part about a man with a criminal past being paired with a youngster, and having to decided which direction he was going to take his life in. It also had the whole backwoods, poverty thing going on, so again it felt like it would be similar to Mud – as well as Winter’s Bone – which is a good thing.

Joe

The movie started to go downhill somewhere around, maybe even a little after, the midway point. I mentioned Joe has a criminal past. I don’t know what his actual issue is, but he’s prone to violent outbursts. There are some outbursts in the movie that make sense, but others that do not. When it comes to protecting Gary and/or standing up to Willie, it flows naturally. But there was one at the brothel, that just felt random and off. It was trippy (loud music playing to a violent backdrop) that felt completely unnatural to the story. It didn’t feel like it belonged in the movie to be honest. It really stood out to me. It took me out of the movie to be honest.

There was another scene that did that too. It was when Joe and Gary had their official bonding moment. Joe obviously cares for Gary and wants to help the kid. He feels bad he gets smacked around by his father, but he doesn’t want to overstep his bounds. So, the movie hints at a friendship for a while. But when it happens – like the moment I mentioned above – it just felt off. It plays out like a bad music video. It didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie.

Joe

My other problem with this movie was some of the acting. Cage and Sheridan were fine – minus the weird scenes I mentioned above – but some of the supporting cast was distractingly bad. I thought Will Poulter was very amateur – and it turns out that is exact what he was. Gary Poulter had never acted before and never would again either. It turns out the guy died and led a similar life to the character before he did. I get that they were going for authenticity with locals, but there were times where it came off as if someone went on the street with a camera and just filmed a bunch of drunks arguing with one another. It was very amateur. The guy was very much like his character, but that doesn’t mean he gave a good performance. He looked the part, but the guy simply didn’t have much talent.

There was also a bizarre twist to the Willie character. Dude is a creep. No doubt about it. you know it the second you meet the guy. There’s one scene where it becomes apparent he’s going to rape someone. Creepy, right? Well that wasn’t enough. They had to add this element where apparently the guy is a furry.

I wanted to like this movie. I really wanted to like this movie. I didn’t though and I was disappointed that I didn’t. I wanted to like this movie, I was ready to like this movie, but the amateur performances and some of the bizarre pacing and scenes just took me out of it.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 20, 2015.

What She said:

She

Joe is the perfect movie, if you're looking for an inferior version of the film Mud. Starring Nicolas Cage as the title character, the work attempts to engage viewers with a story about struggle and family. However, the underdeveloped characters and generally poor writing doom this movie from it outset.

Joe

Joe is just a fella trying to get by in this crazy, messed up world. He runs a company (if you can call it that) that helps loggers and builders skirt state environmental laws by poisoning trees slowly so that they will need to be cut down and can be replaced with a more desirable species of trees. His workers are generally ex-cons or illegals who are unable to gain employment through more traditional means. He picks them up at a local convenience store each day and pays them a flat rate for their service. Although the work conditions are not ideal, Joe's workers seem extremely loyal to him.

A drifter boy named Gary (Tye Sheridan) and his family roll into town and Gary tries to get work with Joe. Gary seems like a pretty decent teenaged kid, although his father is extremely abusive and an alcoholic. Joe is impressed by Gary's work ethic, but his father is such a violent slacker that he winds up getting them both fired. Gary really is the man of his family, and begs Joe to take just him back as a worker. He needs the money to support his sister, who seems to have some psychological problems and is a mute. Joe feels sorry for Gary, and ends up taking him under his wing, serving as a sort of father figure.

Things all sound well and good, but Joe has his own dark past that he's been trying to escape. Like Gary's father, he struggles with alcohol, and the drink brings out an unruly temper. Joe is doing great things for Gary by taking him in and helping him detach from his leech of a father. However, this causes problems with Gary's father that end up fueling the reemergence Joe's old bad habits. As the situation improves for Gary, things fall apart for Joe and he spirals into his ultimate downfall.

Joe

So, my synopsis of this movie is actually way better than the movie itself. It makes sense when put down in words, but the way this film plays out on screen is a bit of a mess. The backstory of each character is not fully explained, the pacing is inconsistent, and scenes seem to jump all over the place in a way that makes the overall flow hard to follow.

If there's one plus with this film, it's that Nicolas Cage for once actually put in a decent performance. It's a shame he didn't have more to work with because you can tell that he was really trying his best. Sheridan also isn't too bad; however, this movie just is not as good as the similarly plotted Mud, which he also stars in. I think he's found his genre niche, but this film was not the best platform for this young actor to shine through.

The composition of the film was so-so, and I think that poor direction may have contributed significantly to it's failures. It feels choppy and awkward at times. There are moments where it's difficult to understand what characters are saying, and it's fuzzy how the smaller scenes really fit into the bigger picture of the film's story.

Fortunately for us, Joe was free on Netflix. Either way, I would not recommend it, but at least I don't feel completely ripped off.

Thumbs down.

Joe