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TIFF 2013 Review: Joe


Special Presentation

There’s something deeply cinematic about the Southern states. Derived from Westerns, the landscapes are often desolate and townships deformed. This state of squalor is captured through Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage) – the name behind David Gordon Green’s grim drama about the unexpected bond between Joe and a determined, scrappy kid named Gary (Tye Sheridan, who befriended another convict in this year’s Mud).

The film deals with (mostly male) characters whose flaws outweigh their strengths, particularly Gary’s craven drunkard of a father (the late Gary Poulter) who lies, cheats, and kills his way through the absence of employment and his own fatherly failings.

Poetically filmed by Green (and shot by Tim Orr), although not without obvious symbolism, Joe is a gritty character drama about the threat of violence, competitiveness, workmanship, and all the traditional notions of masculinity. The reach of Joe’s commentary is narrowed to the South. The movie is not about universal values, but the primitive ones still followed by the Southern underclass.

Written by Green’s college professor Gary Hawkins (and adapted from a novel by Larry Brown), Joe is a sharply crafted, gritty, and extremely well-acted piece that features Cage beyond his years with a gut and a smoker’s cough. While the movie focuses more on Joe’s basic redemption (the film’s last line: “Joe was a good man, at least to me”) than the complex hypocrisy behind Joe’s paternal influence on Gary (more on that in my full review), it still remains one of the most maturely rendered works at the festival.

Saturday September 14 – Visa Screening Room (Elgin) – 2:30 PM

[star v=4]