Joe is a movie I waited to watch for Nicolas Cage‘s performance, keeping it under my hand, like a bottle of wine you would keep in your cave leaving it to get older for a better taste.
I am a big fan of Nicolas Cage and I believe he is one of the best actors of all time, even though he made some pretty shitty choices the last decade, just like John Travolta. But anyway, I am not going to come back to this.
Directed by David Gordon Green, starring along with Cage, is Tye Sheridan, craving himself into this tradition of extreme naturalistic movies; power and presence of nature and great symbolism of wilderness, such as The Tree of Life or Mud.
Based on the novel of Larry Brown, Joe is depicting the issues overwhelming southern people of the 90’s, from unemployment, alcoholism, prostitution, to rough violence, and disappearance of morality and values.
The set of actors isn’t that impressive, but Cage (Joe), Sheridan (Gary) and Gary Poulter (the famous homeless – I’ll come back to this later – playing Wade the supposed father of Gary), are exuding a raw bestiality that is mesmerizing. The aggressiveness of each of those characters is different, and here resides the uniqueness of their performances.
Very briefly, the story is about Gary, fifteen, looking for a job to help his family (mother and sister more than father), and lucky for him, he meets Joe (Nicolas Cage) who offers him work in the woods. And of course, this isn’t pleasing Wade.
But really, the film is tackling several issues gravitating around the story of Gary’s and Joe’s relationship. The boy finding a paternal figure, someone he can really take as a role model, someone he sees as fair, and their struggle in the pitiless environment they live in.
Director David Gordon Green (D.G.G.), gathered perfectly all the elements needed to put us, spectators, right into the movie, and delicately into the atmosphere of the novel. D.G.G. took lots of risks, and yet it turned out to be a little more than a good feature.
Now lets go back to Gary Poulter. When I say that the filmmaker took some risks, I’m referring principally to his casting. Poulter was a real alcoholic on top of being homeless. Directing a drunk elder non-professional actor with a movie starring Nicolas Cage… This could have been the worst thing ever. However, Poulter’s performance in Joe, is, and this is my personal belief, breathtaking because of him playing his became-natural state. Playing drunk, playing a homeless, playing someone who lost every bits of values, and who lost them because of society, because of unemployment, because of misery. His semi-acting was something so poignant, so disturbing; it caught me between anger and empathy. I despised him, and yet I found him beautiful. He is in despair, and he is exhaling a pure tender, that is nevertheless ephemeral. In a nutshell, Poulter flabbergasted me with his presence and self.
Not to forget Tye Sheridan who is astonishingly expressive and charismatic, he gave a stunning performance and his duo with Cage is working well, and it allowed our has-been actor to be. To come back and be.
(Yet, I would have added a little more fantasy and craziness to his character.)
To wrap up, David Gordon Green’s bold movie, extracted the essence of Brown’s novel and made it come alive, made it shine, with a great trio of main actors, animals of the South.