Thursday, May 1, 2014

Joe (Rhoades)

Homeless Man Steals
Scenes from Nic Cage
In Indie Drama “Joe”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Life is unfair. What if you were a homeless alcoholic, but you got a shot to co-star in a movie with Nicolas Cage? And what if the critics, those usually cynical, give-no-quarter jabberwockies, called your acting “stunning” and “one of the great one-shot performances in the history of the cinema”? And what if you’re found dead in a shallow stream before the film was ever released?

That’s the true story of Gary Poulter, a homeless man who was living on the streets of Austin, TX, when a casting director spotted him.

Next thing you know, he’s playing opposite an Oscar winner and giving what Entertainment Weekly calls a scene-stealing performance.

In “Joe” -- the dark Southern Gothic indie film directed by David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) -- you might call it type casting. Poulter plays an alkie degenerate who beats up his son, pimps out his daughter, and threatens Joe (Nic Cage) when he tries to intercede.

The eponymous Joe is a self-destructive ex-con trying to do the right thing. He befriends a boy (Tye Sheridan, the kid from “Mud”) who comes from an abusive household. The boy’s father (Poulter) is a mean drunk who squares off against Joe like a striking rattlesnake. Is Joe willing to stand up for his young friend, even if it risks his going back to prison? We’ll see.

Cage, who because of financial problems has been taking every two-bit role he’s offered, finally settles into a good one. His acting returns to the level of “Leaving Las Vegas,” this being his best star-turn in years.

Tye Sheridan, who acquitted himself well in “Mud,” holding his own against another Oscar-winner, Matthew McConaughey, proves it wasn’t a fluke by holding his own against Cage.

And Gary Poulter matches them both scene-for-scene in this three-way tour de force.

Drowning in three feet of water after a night of heavy drinking, Poulter had struggled with substance abuse since he was a teenager. Two years ago he was in jail. Having been fired from a traveling circus for stealing, he wound up sleeping of the streets.

“He was like the damn devil,” says his younger sister, Maria MacGuire. “It was just a shame that he wasted his life the way he did.”

Not a great eulogy. But he did one thing right, co-starring in “Joe.” Catch it at the Tropic Cinema and see if you agree.

srhoades@aol.com

1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

I saw Joe several months ago on some movie channel or other. I had to overcome my inclination not to watch because it featured Nicholas Cage. I too had grown weary of his over-the-top character portrayals. It was good to see a real performance for a change.