EIFF 2014 – Joe
Nicolas Cage plays the titular character in the David Gordon Green directed Joe, a film about a man who mentors an abused young man named Gary (Tye Sheridan) when he sees him mistreated by his father.
Everybody, look Nicolas Cage can still act, he really hasn’t forgotten how. It’s great to see Cage take on a challenging role and play it well. As a Nic Cage fan I find myself very pleased at this revelation.
Joe is an honourable man in a dishonourable place, he may be an ex-con but he has a defined set of principles and sticks to them. He owns a business that is responsible for poisoning trees that will later be cut down once they die, those who work for him admire him greatly and Joe is willing to treat everyone with respect provided they work hard. There are lots of scenes of him going around town and helping people with various things so he’s nicely established as a respected member of the community but he has his share of enemies and faces periodic problems with the law.
Things change for Joe when Gary starts working for him and shows how dedicated he is both as a worker as well as to his mother and sister. Gary’s father Wade aka G-Daawg (Gary Poulter) is a good-for-nothing violent drunk who beats him for no reason. Joe feels a sense of responsibility and takes Gary under his wing to show him how to be strong in such a rough place. This relationship is the core of the film and is handled magnificently, Joe doesn’t quite see himself in Gary but his innate goodness won’t let the abuse continue.
Lots of the film is brutal and unsettling, the town they live in is not a nice place to be and it takes a certain type of strength to live there, a strength that Gary doesn’t possess in the beginning. The scenes where Joe teaches Gary about the realities of life are fantastic, you can really see a passing the torch sort of story unfolding and Gary’s growth is played excellently. The two characters bounce off each other really well and it’s great to see Joe be almost parental in his interaction with Gary as the story progresses.
Overall, the film was very well put together with a well told coming of age story that gives Cage a great opportunity to stretch his seldom used -of late- acting muscles. It was shocking when it needed to be shocking and funny when it needed to be funny, the humour is somewhat tragic but it is well executed. Only thing that lets it down is a somewhat rushed ending that doesn’t quite match the mood of the rest of the film. Here’s hoping that Cage will pick more quality roles after this.