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Critics reviews
Joe
David Gordon Green United States, 2013
Green’s regular cinematographer, Tim Orr, brings to the exteriors his characteristically ripe, rich palette. Less predictable is the way the apparently squalid interiors compete in this aesthetic beauty contest. Sunlight blasts through coloured curtains, drenching one room in a brothel a lush orange, the next a ridiculous pink that tickles the eye. Divisions between external and internal, home and nature, are being eroded subtly.
July 25, 2014
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Green affirms his film’s classist hopelessness by a sense of daring meta positioning: By pitting a privileged movie star against a true member of the walking damned, and ironically asking you to root for the star under the guise of empathizing with the damned.
June 15, 2014
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Green has produced one of his very finest films to date, and a showcase for Cage’s best actorly instincts… In its own oblique way, Joe, adapted by Gary Hawkins from the late Larry Brown’s novel, is a kind of male-centered American answer to the films of Belgium’s Dardenne brothers.
May 01, 2014
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To call it old fashioned isn’t quite right because Green’s style is very much of the moment, but this is as close as we can get to Lolly Madonna XXX or The Winds of Autumn without resorting to grammatical anachronisms. Cage, in one of his finest performances, even recalls perennial hillbilly character actor Ed Lauter at times.
April 12, 2014
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The movie is best in these seemingly improvised side vignettes (there’s a particularly memorable one in which Joe instructs a local how to properly skin a deer). Yet Green, as is his wont, too often strains for poetic effect through flowery voiceover and tone-deaf interactions—like those between Joe and his latest short-term girlfriend—that undercut the genuineness.
April 08, 2014
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…Green has a gift for balancing the abstract with the mundane. He isn’t afraid of visual flourishes: a bulldog’s mouth dripping with another dog’s blood; a hog, hanged vertically, being stripped of meat; the kitchen of a brothel, its windows boarded up, with everything aglow in red. These are striking images, but not indulgent ones… Joe is both an atmospheric allegory and a muted character drama, shapeshifting and showing new sides of itself up until its very end.
April 06, 2014
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Joe has been taken from a Larry Brown novel, and the fact that it continues to get worse as it goes along means that it doesn’t know how awful it was to begin with. I suspect Green would argue that all the grit and ugliness speak to some sort of authenticity, that there is truth here. The movie, however, wallows in preposterous domestic and emotional grime, in sickness, fatalism, and self-defeat. I didn’t care whether I was being given the truth because I also felt like I was being given cancer.
September 13, 2013
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What’s kind of remarkable about Cage’s performance, given his usual tendency to go as far over the top as possible, is the way the actor downplays even the occasional surge of violent emotion. It’s a movie about restraint, which is exactly what its star demonstrates throughout.
September 13, 2013
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Any good stuff is counteracted by the redundant and pointless miserablism of the whole exercise: drifting awkwardly between several genres, from coming-of-age story to comedy to melodrama, it may be that what Green ultimately had in mind was a Southern version of a western. (A southwestern?) Cage’s acting steers away from the self-parody and boredom that has defined his recent work, but he’s no cowboy.
September 04, 2013
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I felt Cage and Green dutifully constricting themselves throughout “Joe,” suppressing their warmer, looser instincts to serve a narrative that is serious but not quite substantial. Essentially affecting as the surrogate father-son relationship at its core is, I found myself rooting for the leads only because the film’s narrow, nuance-free story world presents no other options…
August 30, 2013
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Green is at his best when working with non-professionals, and the verité, seemingly off-the-cuff inserts of black workers conversing while clearing a pine forest make for fascinating viewing… That said, the fluency of the storytelling isn’t always up to snuff, and Green is prone to inserting in spurious single-serving scenes which feel like they’re there to artificially bolster the character motivations.
August 30, 2013
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As much of a relief it is to see this extraordinarily gifted actor [Cage] play something other than a witch hunter, sorcerer, or Ghost Rider, Joe doesn’t give him much to work with. The picture is self-consciously brutal; it really labors to make the point that life sure ain’t easy for these hardscrabble folk.
August 30, 2013
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