Directed by David Gordon Green
Screenplay by Gary Hawkins
Based on the novel by Larry Brown
I have a ’15-minute rule’ for whenever I watch a movie at home—if I’m not feeling it in the first 15 minutes, I turn it off and put something else on. This doesn’t always mean that I think the movie is bad—sometimes it just means I’m not in the mood for it, and as such, wouldn’t be able to judge it fairly. Some take issue with this rule, others see where I’m coming from, and that’s fine either way—it’s not something I’m particularly passionate about, it works for me, it’s whatever. Yesterday, for the first time, I felt actual guilt about it though.
I rented Joe from my local video store (the last remaining one in my neighborhood, not counting the library, which I love, but gets new releases very late). It was the only copy there, and I felt lucky to find it—I’d been looking forward to seeing it for a while. Based on its trailer it seemed like it could be the return-to-form I’d been waiting for from David Gordon Green for some time now. He’s a hugely talented filmmaker, but his last three films (Prince Avalanche, The Sitter, Your Highness) have been dreadful. Fortunately, I can report that after watching the first 15 minutes of Joe, it’s safe to say he’s got his touch back. Unfortunately, that’s all of the film I could see, due to a damaged DVD.
At around the 15 minute mark, the movie started skipping frames and jumped forward to 35 minutes in. Scanning backwards on the remote did nothing, it just made everything freeze up completely. I took out the DVD and looked at it—it was clean except for a tiny-but-deep scratch in the middle. I tried to clean it, hoping it was just an ugly smudge posing as a tiny-but-deep scratch, but no dice.
I considered renting it on VOD, but between the cost of that and what I’d paid to rent it, I’d be paying close to 10 dollars to watch a movie that I wouldn’t even own—at that point, I might as well just buy the thing. So, I did what any sane person would do and went on Netflix and watched something else (season two of Derek).
The next day, I brought it back and told the owner about the skippy disc. They said that this was impossible—it was a brand new disc and I was the first person to rent it. I told them to check it out for themselves. They said they would—later on. I left, too annoyed by their mix of arrogance and laziness to continue the conversation. I then went to the library and returned a DVD of Who The Fuck Is Jackson Pollock that I’d taken out two weeks ago and was too scratched to even play at all. They immediately apologized and even thanked me profusely for telling them. All that kindness over a DVD I rented from them for free and even renewed for a second week simply because I was too lazy to bring it back. God, I love the library. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—they’re the best video store imaginable.
I can’t help but wonder if what happened with my copy of Joe is that I was punished by the movie gods for my 15-minute rule. Maybe there is something inherently wrong with turning a movie off before you finish it. I guess I should ask Jenna if she ever has any problems with skippy movies—if she doesn’t, she may be onto something with her stick-it-out approach.
But, back to Joe. I of course can’t review the movie, but I’m gonna try and review the first fifteen minutes. Keep in mind that, for all I know, it could suck terribly from that point on. I doubt it, but anything’s possible. Even if that’s the case though, I’d say the film is still worth seeing, because the first act is quite solid.
David Gordon Green has a hell of a way of establishing a setting. In all of his best movies, you really feel like you’re where the story is taking place. He and his longtime cinematographer Tim Orr have an eye and an ear for detail, and it’s not just how they shoot their settings, or layer the sound—they populate them with local, non-actor side characters that look the town and speak the town. This is just about the best thing you can do to bring realism to a movie, and it also forces the professional actors have to step their game up—they have to strive to not look out of place amongst those who actually live in the place.
Nicolas Cage nails this. He’s believable from the moment you see him, and interacts with the crew at his job site like he’s been working with them for ages. Sure, the dialogue helps, and so does the costuming, but for a man who tends to look out of place in movies (not knocking him for it—that’s his acting style) he damn sure looks like he belongs here, because he’s tuned his body language and expressions and delivery to his surroundings. It’s his best performance since Leaving Las Vegas—yes, he’s even better here than he was in Adaptation, which is saying something.
I liked the way the story was flowing and the cast of characters and all that sorta stuff and blah blah blah. Would’ve really liked to see the rest of the movie. Will do so at some point. But, I didn’t want y’all to have to wait for me to do so before you got a chance to seek this one out. Get on it. Here’s hoping yours doesn’t skip like mine did.