In need of a father-figure in your life? Look no further than this guy. But with more facial-hair.
15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) is living a hard life in the deep and dirty South. Not only is his dad (Gary Poulter) a drunk, but he’s a mean, nasty, and cruel one, too. Any money that Gary ever makes from working his butt off, or any reward he gets whatsoever, always gets taken away from him and/or has him get roughed-up a bit as well. Joe (Nicolas Cage) realizes this and he’s about tired of seeing it. That’s when he decides to step into Gary’s life when he notices that the kid has some promise for this world and makes it his mission to make him a man of sorts. The only problem is that Joe’s troubled-past with the law, criminals, booze, hookers and smoking continue to come back and bite him in the ass. And somehow, that checkered-past of Joe’s, ends up finding its way into Gary’s life, where neither one of them know if they are going to live or die. All they do know is that they got a friendship together, and they’re going to stick together, regardless of what havoc may be coming their way.
Nic fuckin’ Cage, man. That’s all I have to say.
If none of you know this by now, then let me just regurgitate everything I’ve been saying for the past couple of years or so – I’ve never given up hope on Nic Cage. Never, ever. Yes, he makes shitty movies; yes, most of the time it seems like he’s just doing everything for the movie; and yes, he over-acts more times than he often should. But you know what? Deep down inside, underneath all of the confusing career-decisions he’s made in the, oh, I don’t know, say decade or so, I knew that he was doing it all for a reason.
Some of those decisions were probably made to get him some extra cash on the side, and as a result, therefore allowing him to do smaller, more-challenging roles that we don’t get to see him do too often. And as the titled-character Joe, we get to see everything Nic Cage that any adoring, dedicated fan would want to see: Some real, grounded acting.
See, with Nic Cage, it’s hard to figure out what kind of role you’re going to get from him – either A): you get a totally bonkers role in which he yells, screams, hoots, hollers and never dials it down under eleven the whole time, or B): you get a bit of the nuttiness, but in a more sensible, human-like way. We’ve seen more of the first part one too many times, but that latter one does show its face every once and a blue moon, and when it does, it’s a sight to see. Such is the case here with Joe; a role that Nic Cage may have not been born to play, but a role that I’m glad to see him play and pull-off so perfectly.
With the character of Joe, or at least, the way he is written, he’s made out to be the traditional, misfit father-figure a little boy from a broken-home would look up to. He may not be the most perfect human being in the history of humanity, but he at least knows what is right, what is wrong, and how he can make those lives around him a lot better. His relationship with Gary could have easily been an uncomfortable one to see play-out, but somehow, Cage plays Joe so damn well, that it always seems like Joe just wants to be Gary’s friend. Nothing more than just a simple pat on the back and a beer in his hand. So yeah, they’re unconventional buddies, but they are believable as such.
But before I go on any further and start making this a tribute of sorts to Nic Cage, I think I should throw some credit towards Tye Sheridan who, with a handful of roles in the past four years, has really shocked the hell out of me. He’s only 17-years-of-age right now, but with what I’ve seen from him so far, I see a real bright, and inspired future ahead of his. The role he has here, may not be all that different from the one he had in last year’s Mud, but the kid is so good at playing-up that “angry-youth” aspect of his characters, that it almost doesn’t. Also, whenever he’s on the same screen with the almighty Nic Cage, he never gets the show stolen from him. He handles his own quite well, much like what he did with Matthew McConaughey last year, and shows us that any and all kid actors have a lot to live up to now that he’s around.
However, he won’t be a kid for too long, which I hope only means that he’ll get better and better roles coming around his way. Or, the worse could happen and he could end-up like this guy.
Please don’t, Tye Sheridan. You have too much good going for you right now to just screw it all up.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right: Nic Cage. Like I was saying before, this is the type of role that seems tailor-made for what Cage does so well; he’s able to be a sympathetic character, that knows the difference between right and wrong, but by the same token, isn’t always thinking correctly and usually lets his anger get the best of him. With Joe, Cage gets plenty of chances to show the rage that’s practically brewing from inside of him the whole time, and it’s tense as freakin’ hell. You can tell by just looking in his eyes when he’s going to lose his cool and you automatically feel bad for whomever it is that’s about to feel his wrath, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Most of the time, they do, but there is that slight chance in which Joe is just going all nutso on someone, just because he’s been having a bad day or something.
But, like I’ve been alluding to this whole time, there’s a deep, understanding human-conscience to this guy, and you see that play-out many times during his few scenes with Gary. In fact, one of the problems I had with this movie was that a lot of it seemed to get so far away from Joe and Gary’s friendship, that I sort of wanted them to go back more times than they actually did. Not just because I wanted to see more of Nic Cage acting his ass-off (deep down, I really did), but because that’s the heart of this movie that kept it going, even when everything was as black as the coffee I had this morning.
However, that’s neither here, nor there; what matters is what fuels this movie, and that’s the fact that David Gordon Green never really allows for it to get to dark to where it’s off-putting. It’s never really pleasant either (with the exception of a few scenes, which, oddly enough, are between Gary and Joe), but I wasn’t really expecting much else from this movie. Green is sort of now back in good-graces with the movie world as it seems to be that he is, once again, doing more smaller-scale, lower-budget indie-flicks, and it’s exciting to see. More important is that while he does have that visual-style that was so prevalent in his earlier-flicks, he doesn’t allow for that to take over his movie; there is still a story here, and it rarely ever seemed to lose my interest.
And I have to say, it’s pretty interesting to see such wild cards like Nic Cage and David Gordon Green getting together and making a movie. It totally worked to their advantage, clearly, but it’s just interesting to see what happens when two talented people are able to come together on something, understand one another, and work their rumps off. Obviously, for me, this is Green’s best flick since, say, I don’t know, All the Real Girls; but as for Mr. Cage, hmm, well, I’d have to say, it’s probably his best “real” performance since Adaptation. Which, incidentally was a little over a decade ago. Not saying that there hasn’t been some fine pleasures in between (surely this moment in his career will never leave my memory-banks), but it hasn’t been too pretty either. Here’s to hoping that Nic’s got some more promising-material coming up the pipeline.
However, by the looks of things, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Consensus: Surely not the sort of pick-me-up if you’re a fan of some of Nic Cage’s, or David Gordon Green’s more mainstream flicks, but if you’re willing to let it take its toll on you, you’ll find Joe to be an emotional, gripping drama that you want to see all talents involved do more of.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!