TIFF 2013: Joe (2013)
The “coming-of-age” sub-genre is one of the most thematically diverse and abundantly rewarding. Its films provoke vast emotional reactions, they make us laugh, allow us to remember what it was like to be young, and offer limitless insight into living, humanity, and love. Yet, despite all this positivity and relevance, these films remain on the periphery of mainstream cinema, but I digress. So far this year, two of the best films released, “Mud” and “The Way, Way Back,” fall into this category. And while at TIFF 2013, I was fortunate enough to catch another hidden coming-of-age gem, David Gordon Green’s “Joe.” Although it has yet to receive an official release, I’m more than content to deem “Joe” a sublime finale to what I’ve dubbed as 2013’s “coming-of-age” trilogy…”Mud” and “The Way Way Back” being the other two entries. While not as obviously strong structurally and story-wise, “Joe” rivals it’s brethren in nearly every other aspect.
Now, If we dig a bit deeper, the “coming-of-age” sub-genre can be broken down into more specific tangents. For example “Joe,” much like its trilogy partners, fits into the “finding-yourself-a-mentor” class. In which the adolescent protagonist finds a rough, off-beat, anti-heroic kindred spirit to ease the very trying transition into adulthood. All three flicks have this plot point in common. Additionally, each protagonist, in one way or another, comes from a broken home. The list of commonalities goes on and on, but that’s besides the point. What I’m driving at is that although each film has some labelled similarities, each brings their own uniqueness to the fold and differ significantly. “The Way, Way Back” shares a lot of DNA with the romantic comedy, while “Mud” offers more of a veritable, serious, realistic gaze into the loss of innocence and growing up. “Joe” is much darker and focuses equal parts on the protagonist and anti-hero.
Out of all three, I’d say that Green’s film is the one that most plays out like a movie, if that makes any sense? I mean, “coming-of-age” films arguably relate most to real life and are the most receptive to a connection with the audience. With “Joe,” it might be more difficult to relate due to its violent, depressing nature. I guess what I’m saying is that out of the three films released this year, while not overly cinematic as to hamper the film, “Joe” is the most dramatic and far-fetched, which I am not claiming to be a bad thing.
Its progression of events is nothing that you haven’t heard or seen before, but this is also not necessarily a bad thing. While none of the three films present any tactic or vantage point that hasn’t been utilized before. The “coming-of-age” sub-genre has a fairly basic list of criteria that needs to be met, so it’s all essentially been done before and this is no filmmakers fault. That being said, the story, characters, and circumstances are all subjected to change, which is what separates each film…but what sends the superior over the top is the investment of the personnel. And much like “The Way, Way Back” and “Mud,” “Joe” has a dedicated, veteran, youthful ensemble, both on and off screen.
Much like the other genre films released this year. David Gordon Green’s “Joe” is a highly-visual piece. Using the lovely states of Texas and California as a contrasting backdrop to the upsetting, violent elements of the film. Additionally, David Wingo, who composed the original score for “Joe,” compliments the immensity and atmosphere of the scenery impeccably. On occasion however, the sheer uncomfortableness, violence, and stomach-churning family drama is too much to handle, let alone subdue.
Even though “Joe” is a return to form for director David Gordon Green. This dark, southern drama is as much a showcase for its three leads: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, and the late Gary Poulter. Sheridan continues to prove that he’s the next big thing with another heartfelt, courageous performance, much like that of his in “Mud.” Mark my words, if this boy continues making films of this caliber, there’s not doubt in my mind he will skyrocket to stardom. As for Cage, truthfully, he hasn’t been this stellar in a good long while. Parading around with his usual confidence and flair, Cage is funny, passionate, and ruthless. Yet, as impressive as Cage, Sheridan, and Green are, the incredible story and performance of Gary Poulter steals the show. Poulter, prior to being cast in the film was homeless. Initially intended to be cast in a supporting role, Poulter stunned Green and eventually landed a significant part. Sadly, he passed away shortly after the film wrapped and Green dedicated the film to his memory. Poulter’s portrayal alone is worth checking out this flick.
Incredibly performed, visually mesmerizing, and presenting a story that’s hard to ignore. David Gordon Green’s “Joe” is an impressive outing for all involved.
Joe: 8.5 out of 10.
Posted on October 8, 2013, in Drama and tagged Cage, David Gordon Green, Drama, Poulter, Sheridan, Thriller, Wingo. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.
THE RETURN OF THE CAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK YES. this is one of the films you saw at TIFF that I am incredibly jealous of. Glad you loved it!
It is indeed a return to form for Mr. Cage. He is absolutely phenomenal in Joe and so is the young, up-and-comer, Tye Sheridan. Both are fantastic and so is the film. I hope you get to see it soon :).
Sounds good, Captain! I’ve always liked Cage (even his stupidest movies) so this is one I’ll check out, for sure : )
Thanks! I also love Cage, not his more, let’s say…generic roles, but definitely when he is at his best. This is one you should definitely check out :).
I’m on it (when it comes around)
Nice review. I’ve enjoyed the book so can’t wait to catch this.
Thanks Robert! I haven’t read the book, that’s next on my list :).
Man, this looks good. I enjoyed your review and I cannot wait to watch Cage bring his A game once again. Thanks!
Thank you! It’s a must see for Cage fan. He’s so amazing, so is Sheridan :).
I want to see this purely for The Beard. If it’s also a pretty good movie then all the better :) Great review man.
Thanks! Yeah, the beard is god-damn epic. The actual film is just a bonus ;).
Oh, this looks pretty good! I would like to have a look see. I have always liked Cage, but I see for some reason he is immensely unpopular, and I mean he HAS got some decent films!
It’s a really good flick, definitely check it out. Cage isn’t necessarily unpopular, just made a slew of bad films that alienated him. With Joe however, it looks like he is headed in the right direction :).
I suppose. He became somewhat of a joke (yep, credit them bad films), which made him pretty unpopular and forgotten here. Ah, would like to see that then!
Hey Joseph, it seems you didn’t mention Kings of Summer which is also a great ‘coming of age’ style movie released this year.
Great review though, can’t wait to see that movie. I thought Mud was great. Check out my Matthew McConaughey career overhaul post on http://www.thomasjford.wordpress.com
Hey! Yeah, I haven’t seen Kings of Summer, is it any good? I’ll definitely check out the article as soon as I can. Thanks so much :).
Yeah it was great. There is a review of it on my blog. One of my faves of the year. If you like coming of age films you will like it I think.
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