I seem to be suffering a crisis of masculinity. Some time between when Matthew McConaughey started pounding on his chest and Matthew McConaughey started beating up sissy-haters in the meat aisle something inside me broke (maybe it was around the time that Matthew McConaughey twirled his butt-cheeks around while schutpping his partner's wife over a sink full of stale beer) and the hyper-posturing of straight-man propaganda just stopped doing it for me. There's a lot that works in David Gordon Green's new movie Joe. I haven't entirely been on board the Tye Sheridan train before now but he's wonderful here, using the awkwardness of his middle teenage years to endearingly goofy effect. And the cast of unknowns populating this movie's time and place are as rich as this sort of thing gets - this world is steeped in a stank-ass realness that I recognize profoundly from my own youth mired in very near similar destitution.
But that's what riles about the stuff that doesn't work - the reality of this world suffers as it descends into alpha-male posing. Nicolas Cage has some good work happening here, better than he's done in awhile I guess (although we shouldn't be pinning prizes on people's lapels for just not doing what they were doing in Season of the Witch, really), but casting him forced my brain into Adaptation territory in the last act where silly plot developments and inane character actions shuffle the story into absurdity - I kept expecting to see Meryl Streep crawling through the brush with a shotgun in the last couple of scenes. Which would have significantly improved my mood.
There was this guy sitting in front of me at last night's screening at BAM that was so primed for every word that Nicolas Cage had to say during the movie - he was bouncing around in his seat at the prospect of tough-guy don't-give-a-damn-ishness with glee, giggling like a schoolgirl whenever Nic got a lil' bit saucy and laid it down like a real fella would. I would love to be so open to that joy, but it just feels so forced to me. Don't pretend you're giving me seriousness when you're half an inch in every direction from Arnold Schwarzenegger shoving a pipe through a dude and telling him to let off a little steam. I want Arnold Schwarzenegger shoving a pipe through a dude and telling him to let off a little steam. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger shoving a pipe through a dude and telling him to let off a little steam. But don't pretend we actually live in a world where that happens. And if we really did live in a world where that happened, I don't think I would actually giggle like a schoolgirl in the face of it.
I've seen some reviewers say that Green handles the tonal shifts deftly here, and there are certainly times when that's true, but the majority of my money's placed on the notsomuch side of that argument. I just don't think Green finds much new to say about What Plagues The Straight Man to make me care, at least not enough to follow it into some ridiculous manly man spectacle of vengeful gruff (but deep down sensitive, so sensitive) carnage. Silly scar-faced eighties wannabe gangsters from an episode of Miami Vice have no place here, they should leave before somebody drops a house on them. And I feel like paraphrasing The Wizard of Oz in my discussion of stylized heterosexual affectations is just about the right way to close that out. I prance right on out of here, poof glitterbomb.
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