MSPIFF14 Reviews: JOE & Brave Miss World documentary

MSPIFF_Reviews

JOE

Review by Josh P.

JOEmovieposterOften grim, Joe is well made and gripping, though, perhaps, not for the faint-hearted. In the film’s first scene, writers Larry Brown & Gary Hawkins and director David Gordon Green define Joe as a harsh drama. In it, fifteen-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) accosts his father, Wade (Gary Poulter), for being an abusive alcoholic. Gary’s soliloquy helps solidify the film’s identity, of course, as does Wade’s response, but Green’s camera angle is even more effective; it is an unchanging over-the-shoulder shot, one that shows us the back of Gary’s head and most of Wade’s face.

From this first image, we know that Gary is not in control, that he will have to fight for success. Joe promises to be about a child on the precipice, one whom the world ignores.

It delivers. When Gary meets Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage), an ex-convict with a good heart but uncontrolled anger, the former convinces the latter to hire him and his father for laborious work as corporate tree killers. In his excitement, Gary runs home to tell his family he’s found work, but neither his mother nor father reciprocate his elation. Worse, Wade refuses to help Gary get groceries in town, only finally agreeing to join his son after lengthy conversation. Upon enlisting his father’s aid, Gary sees a stranger, Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins), and asks for a ride. But Willie does not help. And neither does Wade, no matter what Willie says or does to his son.

Gary is too young and uninformed for such a life, but only Joe and Connie (Adriene Mishler) care. And only Joe helps. Helps so much, in fact, that he becomes Gary’s role model and surrogate father, his own emotional issues notwithstanding. Brown, Hawkins and Green’s plot, then, effectively adheres to theme: as Joe himself asks, more or less, how does society allow its children to be this disadvantaged? Why don’t people help them?

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It is an upsetting question, made all the more so because Green immerses in it. When Joe should be disturbing, the directoruses every filmmaking element to fuel the audience’s anxiety. Consider when Wade stalks a homeless man. We hear soft, beat-heavy music mixed with natural footstep sound editing, at the same time we see a wide-angle shot that frames both men. The shot is held so long, the walk so drawn out, that we dread the scene’s resolution. When Wade lights a cigarette, our dread turns to fear. It is only one example of Green’s directorial skill, but it is emblematic. Joe would not be half so effective without the director’s artistic touches.

A narrative that sufficiently develops most of its characters helps, as well. As do powerhouse performances from Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan and Gary Poulter. All three men are note-perfectly captivating. Ditto that for Joe’s occasional flights of humor, which lighten the mood just enough to make the film entertaining.

If still imperfect, mostly because Willie is poorly written. Why, really, does he hate Joe? Why he is so bent on revenge? Why does he freak out at Gary the first time they meet? Why, in other words, is he who he is? We can only begin to answer such questions, and none of our answers move beyond theories.

Despite this significant flaw, Joe accomplishes its objectives and merits a recommendation.

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Review by Josh

JJamesReviews


Brave Miss World

BraveMissWorldDocI’ve always been attracted to documentaries about social issues and this one immediately grabbed my attention. Linor Abargil seemed to have the world on her feet at 18. I mean she beat hundreds of contestants to win the Miss World title in 1998. But little did most of the world then knew that she was abducted, stabbed and raped in Milan by someone she trusted, her travel agent, just six weeks before she was crowned.

Some documentaries are tough to get into, especially when the subject is as bleak as rape. Yet this film kept my attention from the start thanks to the protagonist of the film. Linor became the reluctant ‘face’ if you will for survivor of sexual violence. Though she had the support of families n friends, she was still haunted by the horrifying event. I applaud her for speaking out however, and using her Miss World fame to help others. Though at times it wore her out and took an emotional toll on her that she had to revisit that terrible night every time another woman confessed she had been raped, she kept going. I wonder why at times, and so did her family members, as her parents candidly shared to the camera how they dread her taking on this cause. It helps that how open and candid her family & friends were, including her then-boyfriend who’s now her husband, about sharing how they felt about Linor and her journey.

As the documentary took us on a journey along with Linor though, I’m inspired that Linor chose to turn a brutal act into be something that brings light to a lot of suffering women around the world. At the same time, the experience of talking to fellow survivors was sort of a healing process for her. It was also a quest to bring her rapist to justice. Turns out her rapist has done this crime before and so she was determined to keep him behind bars when he became eligible for parole. The mix of Linor’s personal journey and the cause to bring sexual violence to light wasn’t always seamlessly done however, and editing could’ve been tightly done to maintain the focus on the protagonist. The abrupt detour showing Hollywood stars (Joan Collins, Fran Drescher) who shared their own experience of being raped felt a bit jarring, as it sort of took me out of the film a bit.

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Towards the end of the film, we saw quite a striking transformation of Linor. Her conversion to Judaism may seem quite drastic but I for one didn’t think that her new-found faith was merely a spiritual *crutch* nor that it was merely an act of desperation of some sort. I felt that her desire to be closer to God is a natural passage as she somehow starts to see herself in a different light. I respect that and I’m glad that her spiritual journey was not cut out from the film. I felt that she’s far more beautiful in her natural state, without any makeup or glamorous clothing, as her inner beauty really shines through.

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BraveMissWorldWebsiteFor more info and how you could take action to support this cause, check out Brave Miss World’s official website. She will be making the film festival rounds for the next few weeks. Hope you’ll check out this film when it’s playing near you.

You can also read (and share your own) stories on the site, as well as info on how to get help if you need it.


What do you think of these films?

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40 thoughts on “MSPIFF14 Reviews: JOE & Brave Miss World documentary

  1. Wow! Josh. I love your insightful review of Joe. Glad that Cage is acting and though the story raises more questions than answers, it sounds a little similar to “The Hunt” which also has an unsettling, unresolved ending. I bet I would like it. I liked your descripton of the cinematography and will look out for it. Great work. 🙂
    As far as the documentary, again, well written review, fascinating topic, and I commend Cecilia Peck’s efforts.

    1. Thanks, Cindy!

      I wish I could see Brave Miss World, but technically I’m a Flixchatter employee for this festival, and the site can only cover a given movie once (which I assume explains Ruth’s decision not to review Joe) and in turn means I’m not supposed to get a pass for anything Ruth sees. So I will wait for the DVD. 🙂

    1. Thank you! He’s just as good in Joe, maybe better. Though he is playing a very similar character, albeit this time a little older and with an even more dysfunctional family.

  2. Really enjoying this coverage. I just wish I was there with you both. Joe is really intriguing to me even with it’s bigger flaw. I’m anxious to check it out. More importantly it is great to see Cage doing something GOOD!

    Brave Miss World sounds really tough. Definitely not comfortable subject matter. It still sounds intriguing although apparently they don’t quite hit every note.

    1. Hi Keith, both of these are well-recommended. Yes Nic Cage is excellent here and as I know you like MUD I think you’d enjoy seeing Tye Sheridan as well.

      Brave Miss World is surprisingly not bleak despite the grim subject matter. Linor is beautiful and eloquent, which makes it interesting to watch her journey.

    2. The flaw notwithstanding, JOE is certainly high quality. I think you’ll like it quite a bit.

      And I didn’t see Brave Miss World, but I trust Ruth’s opinion. She is usually pretty fair about these things. 🙂

      I look forward to seeing it eventually.

    1. JOE is very good. I’m in the minority, I realize, but I really like Pineapple Express – so, really, I don’t think Gordon Green every stopped making good films. 🙂

      He does have a special knack for drama, though. That much is certain.

  3. Great coverage here, always makes me want to go to a festival at some point. Really glad to hear Joe is decent, had high hopes for that! I’m glad to see people are still trusting Cage with stuff too despite him getting a bit of a negative reputation over recent years.

    1. Hi Chris! I really think Cage is a good actor, he just needs to seek out good material. He’s certainly got screen charisma and that’s on full display here.

  4. Fine work here guys! I couldn’t help but think of Mud when I was reading about Joe and the impressive Tye Sheridan. It’s also great to hear that Cage is flexing his acting chops again.

    Brave Miss World sounds like a very intriguing doc too. I hadn’t even heard anything about this one beforehand but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

    1. Hi Mark! There are some similarities to Mud and I have to admit I actually like Mud more and it’s not as violent as Joe which suits me better. Tye is one of the best young actors working today, amazing that he’s only 17 years old! I’d like to see him tackle a role in a preppy boarding school or something tho as the two roles I’ve seen him in he’s playing a poverty-stricken boy from a rural south.

      Brave Miss World is intriguing indeed, and not just for women I think as there are some men being represented here as there’s also a staggering number of men who’ve been victims of sexual assault.

    2. There are plenty of similarities between the two movies, Mark. Even Cage’s character is sort of similar to Mud. Like Ruth, I think Mud a touch better.

      And I agree on Brave Miss World. Can’t wait to see it.

  5. Glad you enjoyed Joe, I found the film to be a very pleasant surprise.

    I agree that amongst the four main males, Willie is the weakest link. I don’t think his character is that poorly written per say, it is just that Gary Poulter’s performance as Wade is so good that he steals a lot of Willie’s thunder.

    1. I think part of it is that Poulter outshines the other villains. But I think there more to it than that, obviously, namely that the screenplay doesn’t give us enough insight into Willie.

      But I said that already. 🙂

      I agree with the larger point, though. Joe is quite good.

  6. Pingback: MSPIFF14: First Roundup | jjames reviews

  7. Josh I am agreeing with everyone else’s comments in that I am surprised that Cage finally chose a meatier role and that he did well in it. I will definitely look out for this flick!
    Brave Miss World sounds interesting too and like a good film, but the part with the Hollywood actresses mixed into the documentary sounds odd. Makes me think they should let her tell her story without injecting anyone else’s, so that we can just focus on the main person. Good job to you both! I am enjoying the coverage.

    1. Hi there! Yeah, the mix of Hollywood stars does seem out of place and it seemed so abrupt. I’m glad it was brief tho. Stay tuned for more MSPIFF reviews! 😀

    2. Thanks, Melissa! I have a feeling you will like JOE a lot. Cage is great in it.

      Agreed on Brave Miss World – sounds interesting even if there is a misstep or two. I hope I can figure out someway to see it (since Netflix helped fund it, I assume they’ll also stream it). We’ll see.

  8. I’m not expecting a perfect film, but I can’t wait to check out the performances by Cage and Sheridan in Joe. It’ll be nice to see Cage doing something different for a change.

    1. It isn’t quite perfect, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the film as a whole. And you certainly won’t be saddened by the lead performances. They are all really good. 🙂

  9. I’m not the biggest Nicholas Cage fan. I cannot explain why and really have no reason for it but it just is…kind of thing. However, Joe looks awesome and it is apparent that you really liked it. I hope that I will feel the same! Ty is an actor with serious potential to move on to huge mainstream things as he gets older.

    As for Brave Miss World….that film appears to be provoking as well. Hard to believe how things like that can happen! Hope the guy rots in jail!

    1. I wish I had seen Brave Miss World, because I totally agree – Ruth makes it sound pretty awesome.

      As to Cage . . . I think a fair number of his movies have been very, very poor, but that’s primarily because, for whatever reason (probably money), he has picked some wretched bad projects. When he selects roles that showcase his talent, like JOE, i think he is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. Have you seen a lot of his earlier work?

  10. Tom

    Great reviews, both! Joe definitely sounds interesting and glad to hear a strong performance from Cage.

    Miss World sounds very interesting as I am always curious about social issues that are granted, bleak, but important. This one sounds compelling. Thanks for the heads-up Ruth!

    1. Hello there Tom! Joe is definitely worth checking out, proves that Cage’s still got it if he looked for the right role.

      Brave Miss World is an intriguing doc, definitely worth checking out Tom. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Finally saw Brave Miss World (as it is available through Netflix over here) and very interesting (although hard to watch) documentary. Agree that the Hollywood stars stood out a bit (also because it was such a short bit which didn’t add much, although I didn’t know they also experienced it), but overall I think it is an important documentary as it may help others to finally talk about it and deal with it.

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