And so we come to a film that I was not expecting to like, but I did. This is Zach Braff’s second film as director, as well as being this film’s screen writer and producer, and it was largely crowd funded via Kickstarter. It is really a very gentle comedy and a feel-good movie that deals with family relationships, the reality of life as an actor for most actors, love and the coming loss of a father and grandfather. After so much violence, grief and depression in most of the films I’ve seen this festival, Wish I Was Here came as a very welcome break.
I thought all the lead characters were great, including Mandy Patinkin, Kate Hudson, Josh Gad and of course Zach himself as the father of the two kids played by Joey King and Pierce Gagnon. Nobody is annoying or takes themselves too seriously.
The dialogue is cleverly humorous without trying to be too clever and there is also some very funny visual humour. The film is shot beautifully too. And about 10 years after Garden State, Zach Braff again uses some great music in the soundtrack including Bon Iver and Badly Drawn Boy. Zach and Kate even do a (thankfully short) version of James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James in their garage.
JOE proves that you don’t need to shoot a dwarf to succeed in a violent drama. Perhaps shooting a dwarf is the new jumping a shark?
It is set in the US South and it is very Southern-gothic. Joe, played perfectly by Nicholas Cage, has a violent past, but he is trying hard to make a straight go of it without losing his honour. He soon meets 15 year old Gary Jones who is looking for work for himself and his drunken old dad – played brilliantly by non-professional actor Gary Poulter. I know it sounds a little odd, but I think Tye Sheridan brings a little of Billy Elliot into Gary’s character and he does it really well.
Poverty and desperation are woven throughout this film. It is disturbing to see people still living like this, even in so-called developed countries like the US, but it is probably pretty close to the truth. It is a pretty dark film, but I liked that not all hope was lost.
I think Joe succeeded where The Rover failed terribly. 4/5