Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Joe": Nicholas Cage plays an ex-con seeking redemption from a teenage boy who takes care of all the adults who failed him

I recall a symposium at the Cato Institute in Washington where the speaker encouraged people to have more children because, he felt, the widely touted challenge of being a parent is overstated.  How children turn out is largely a matter of genetics, the argued.

In “Joe” (directed by David Gordon Green, based on the novel by Larry Brown), Gary (Tye Sheirdan), a fifteen year old, goes to work for ex-con Joe (Nicholas Cage) on a gang that poisons trees in the Texas Hill Country so they can be cleared out later (it’s a protectionist scam run by the lumber industry).  As the film opens, we meet Tye’s horrific father (Gary Poulter, who drank himself to death in Austin shortly after making the film), in a confrontation.  Soon, we see that Gary, who never gets to go to school so he can make something of himself in an ordinary sense and who normally would be placed with Child Protective Services, takes care of all the adults in his life who have failed him.  He’s nothing less than an angel.  At home, he protects his mother and autistic sister how has gotten no professional attention. The philosophical or moral question, why minors should be expected to raise siblings whom they did not themselves bring into the world, is barely visited.  As the film progresses into treacherous situations, it becomes apparent that Joe, still an ex-con, is more redeemable than dad.  This seems like New Testament stuff.

The characters are so downtrodden, so earthy, that we wonder if this is how “white trash” in the deep South really has to live.

Compare this film to "Mud" and even "Hud". 
Tye Sheridan says that the original script intended that his character to be a smoker, but that was cut back, although the adults are chain smoking most of the time.

The distribution is another joint venture by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, with this official site

I saw this at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington VA late on a Sunday afternoon before a small crowd.  It was interesting that there were no previews.  The show started with AMC’s old “outdoor theater on another planet” trademark video, and then right to Lionsgate’s Wagnerian outburst.

Pictures: new Bastrop, TX, after 2011 wildfire, my trip in Nov. 2011. 

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