By Darin Skaggs
Nicholas Cage has become a go to punch line; making a career out of so bad they’re good films. However, Cage is a talented actor who because of the many crazy performances his true talent has been buried. David Gordon Green, who cast Cage in his new film Joe seems to know of Cage’s talent and lets his true ability shine in this strange and darkly optimistic movie.
Joe is about a young boy named Gary (Ty Sharidain) that is attempting to become a responsible man despite having an alcoholic father and an apathetic mother. When searching for a job he runs into Joe (Cage) who runs a group of men who poison trees so they could be cut down and new, better trees could be planted. While Gary is trying to be a responsible young man he also has to be responsible for his family. Joe and Gary form a father and son like bond even though Joe has his flaws.
Joe is a strange man. He kills trees for a living; he owns a dangerous dog but hates other dangerous dogs. He lives in a trailer alone and knows seemingly nothing about his family. Throughout the film he does not make good decisions. Yet he is giving Gary good advice, protecting him and sacrificing a ton for the happiness of Gary. Gary needs this, he is doing well on his own, finding his own job, helping his family, but his father figure is an abusive alcoholic that is not afraid to murder to get what he wants. So the fact that Joe takes over the father figure even though he does not need to.
All these moments are truly beautiful, including the last scene, which is a real accomplishment because the film looks visually unappealing. This is not meant a compliant, for the way the film looks is all intentional, from the sets, to everyone’s clothes and the filter of the cinematography. It is all so ugly that when the ending comes everything almost looks better for this world and not to mention the scenes right before this is the ugliest in the film and the ugliest to look at.
David Gordon Green’s Joe is a tour de force of acting, writing and directing. It looks gritty and ugly which makes it all the more beautiful. It is a film all about the concept of beauty from pain and how humanity has a certain need to protect others seemingly out of nowhere.