Joe (2013)

joe nicolas cage

Nicolas Cage disappears into his role as the titular Joe in a film that’s thematically rather familiar but also a surprisingly realist piece of cinema.

The film follows the principal characters Joe (Nicolas Cage) and Gary (Tye Sheridan). Gary is the only member of his degenerate family who is able to work and earn a living; he has been forced to become a responsible person by his vile, repulsive father Wade (Gary Poulter), a man who has abused his body so much and for so long that he can only speak in slurred, incoherent ramblings. I recently compiled a list of the 10 most hateful characters of cinema; I think Wade could quite easily be placed in it.

Joe is a recidivist who is haunted by his criminal history and continues to struggle with controlling his anger, it seems the only way he can stay out of trouble is by absorbing himself in his small landscaping company.

Joe leads a group of black workers, they clear wooded areas with these rather strange axes that waywardly squirt poison everywhere. Joe and Gary are brought together when the boy implores him to employ both himself and his father. Joe obliges and Gary proves to be a good worker, although the agreement is soon thwarted by his obnoxious father who is too polluted, weak and lazy to contribute to the team.

The cast of Joe’s workers and indeed the whole film is populated with actors who were seemingly taken from the street, their performances are completely natural and their language raw, colloquial and as a result sometimes completely incomprehensible! A few times I felt like an American watching Trainspotting, particularly during a row between the moronic Wade and a black worker, whose ebonics is the strongest I’ve ever heard.

Joe is a tough watch, there are characters that represent the very lowest form of human life, there’s seldom a room in the film that isn’t a filthy, cluttered mess. I didn’t expect it to be such a realist piece of cinema, its depiction of blue collar work and young Gary’s first foray into it is sure to resonate with anyone who’s had similar experiences, myself included.

Nicolas Cage doesn’t stick out at all, he effortlessly blends in with the surrounding cast of largely unknown actors. Like Leaving Las Vegas, Joe is an example of Cage moderating his idiosyncratic acting, which I like incidentally, and showcasing just how good he is.

Clear correlations can be made with Mud, a similarly themed film about a benevolent renegade forming a bond with Tye Sheridan’s conflicted teenage boy. Joe is the superior of the pair, although Mud boasted good performances from its leads, it was melodramatic and overrated. Tye Sheridan’s character Ellis in Mud, who is given far too much screen time, thought about love and human relationships in ways that 14-year-old boys just don’t – I didn’t believe in him. He also had a habit of vehemently punching people in the face that belied his prepubescent little frame. Joe’s Gary is a much better character, a measured boy who simply wants to make a living and prove to the men in his life that he’s no kid.

Mud lacked Joe’s gritty nastiness, it had treacly melodrama instead of stark reality. What they do share is the running theme of redemption, and in the case of Joe, I found its conclusion rather familiar and subsequently bathetic. Despite this, Joe succeeds in absorbing you in its masculine world and Nicolas Cage defies any naysayers by completely disappearing into his role as the titular rogue.

76%

Vinyan (2008)

vinyan

Vapid, boring and bathetic.

‘Vinyan’ is a striking yet aimless film that fails to engage. The film charts Paul and Jeanne’s search for their missing son after witnessing footage that leads them, Jeanne particularly, to believe that he is alive somewhere in the Burmese wilderness. Their son had gone missing during the 2004 Asian tsunami; however the film doesn’t detail any of the event, which doesn’t help in making the viewer care at all about the whole premise. Jeanne is somehow adamant that her son is alive, based on brief, bad quality footage.

Unfortunately, Jeanne is one of those irrational, hysterical, self-centred women that make films of this ilk rather irritating to watch. She regularly begins to feel sorry for herself, so much so that in one scene the task of walking across a muddy landscape is just too much for her and she starts falling over on purpose to let her husband know just how discontented she is. Jeanne and her silicone injected lips lace the film with irritation. Paul, who is going through this traumatic experience just as much as her, is measured and sensible, but he is still not a character one feels inclined to empathise with at any moment – apart from when his wife is being a pain in the arse, perhaps.

I didn’t care for their cause at all; the whole thing was a lingering shot of rain, landscapes and tribal children. At times the film was slightly creepy, but that was the extent of its power; considering I watched this film as part of the ‘Fright Fest’ season on Film4, that’s quite a major flaw. Not only does this film not work as a horror, it doesn’t work on any other level either.

Due to its utter vacuity, there isn’t much to say apart from that it is Art House nonsense – all visuals, no substance and a bathetic ending.

40%