on 2014-05-06 15:41
The latest film from director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) is a tragic, yet honest, portrayal of ex-con who forces himself away from the trouble and the pain, but as strong as he is he can’t stop the pressure from growing inside. “Joe” is an adaptation of Larry Brown's 1991 novel “Joe” of the same name and stars a beefed up Nicolas Cage as Joe. Joe has a cigarette induced cough, a gruff southern accent, and he runs a business poisoning trees so the logging companies can come cut them down after they have died and plant more profitable species. One day though a young boy named Gary, played by Tye Sheridan (Mudd), shows up looking for work and the chain of events to follow will change them both for the rest of their lives.
The film holds a very aggressive, and frustrating tone to it that you see right from the beginning scene when Gary is talking to his alcoholic and abusive father, Wade, played by Gary Poulter. Wade smacks him across the face to make him feel like the bigger man. When Gary starts working for Joe the drama thickens as Joe sees what a good kid Gary is and what he is dealing with at home. Joe tries his best to keep his distance and avoid anything that might land him back in prison.
Without a doubt the best part of the film is the outstanding acting done by all the actors especially Gary Poulter. He was so good at being an alcoholic drifter of a father that I had to look him up and see what else he had done. Unfortunately, this search ended very differently as I read the tragic story of Gary’s passing only a few months after the film finished. I couldn’t believe what I was reading because it turns out Gary was actually a homeless man in real life and he was found by casting directors on the streets of Austin, TX and picked for the film. His troubled life with bipolar disease, alcoholism, and violence led him away from his family but things looked like they were getting better for him. Reports say that he showed up on time, worked hard, and was a pleasure to be around. He even got to reunite with some of his family members as they came and watched him on the set. After filming finished Gary found himself back on the streets of Austin and one day September 2013 Gary was found dead in a shallow pool of water. He never got to see the film on the big screen and that is a shame because it will forever be his legacy.
I was recently lucky enough to speak with actor Ronnie Gene Blevins who plays Willie-Russell in the film and he said this about Gary’s performance “Gary was phenomenal. You know. Honestly I knew a little bit about the back story going in to shooting and everything that's written, a lot of it is true. They did find him at a bus stop. They did audition him. He really killed it. What's not written a lot is Gary really did get sober, straightened up for this shoot and he was really quite amazing. And he really wanted to get a job done and he really wanted to clean up his life. And he did so. And he did it for the duration of the shoot. And, I guess it's just a testament to the very real nature of alcoholics because he slipped up a couple of months after shooting and he ended up, he passed. But I can tell you working with him was just a phenomenal education. Just pure truth, pure raw truth. You know? That last line he says right before the end of the movie, when he looks at Nick and says, "Are you my friend?" I don't know if I've ever heard a line delivered with such soul, you know? It's a real tragic loss man.”