Tuesday, August 9

Stream it or skip it: ‘Joe Bell’ on Amazon Prime, an aspiring crybaby starring Mark Wahlberg as a

It’s time for the movie BOATS (based on a true story): Joe Bell, now on Amazon Prime, features Mark Wahlberg as a blue-collar rascal who pays tribute to his son as he walks from his small town in Oregon to New York City, raising awareness of bullying. It’s a candid and straightforward film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (who took a big step in profile with his next effort, King Richard), and it has all the makings of a tear gas. But the words “Mark Wahlberg” and “tearjerker” sure look like oil and water, right?


The essence: MAY 2013: Joe Bell (Wahlberg) crosses Idaho pushing a three-wheeler full of gear. One foot after another, you know what I mean? We see him take the stage in a high school auditorium to speak about tolerance and bullying, and it soon becomes clear that public speaking is not his strong suit. He’s direct, direct, and a little strangely aggressive, and his speech doesn’t last long. In the audience is his son Jadin (Reid Miller). They walk down the street together and Jadin calls her father about his claim that acceptance “starts at home.” It didn’t really happen at Jadin’s house, which puts Joe in for real reflection.

Flashback: nine months before. Joe is trying to watch a soccer game on his new TV when Jadin takes him aside and tearfully reveals that he is gay. “It will resolve itself,” says Joe, before returning to the couch. Joe’s wife / Jaden’s mom, Lola (Connie Britton), hugs Jadin, and then Joe yells at her to bring him a beer. She lets go and heads to the fridge. Joe is a red-blooded straight man who once taught Jadin how to fight. But, Jadin insists, he can’t fight the entire school. He’s being tormented by soccer assholes. Ironic, then, that Jadin is on the cheerleading squad and kissing the star running back.

The narrative jumps back and forth in time, from Joe on the road, where he attracts attention on social media and sings Lady Gaga’s hits with Jadin, to return to Oregon, where the boy continues to be attacked and Joe is not. listen particularly well. to what anyone has to say. There is a terrible scene in the boys’ locker room and another with a school official who doesn’t want to do shit about it. There is a scene in a roadside restaurant where Joe hears a pair of rednecks throwing homosexual insults and wonders if and how he should confront them. There is a montage. (Of course there is a montage). And then there’s a narrative hack, like the ones you’ve seen before and it sure looks free here, but it’s there nonetheless.

Photo: Everett Collection

Which movies will it remind you of ?: Joe Bell has the BOAT stock of something like Wahlberg vehicles Patriot day O Deep water horizonBut it replaces action and suspense in a kind of socio-psychological journey for which Wahlberg seems a bit unsuitable. In particular, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana wrote Joe Bell, but it doesn’t come close to evoking the sense of tragedy in his script for Secret in the mountain.

Performance worth watching: Reid Miller is as good as Jadin, you may wonder why the story was not told from his perspective. You know, instead of straight people.

Diálogo memorable: Wahlberg really Wahlberg works his way through this line: “The truth is all I have! Shit!”

Sex and skin: None.

Our Take: Joe Bell it is a perfectly visible drama that elicits some bittersweet moments but never transcends its formulaic and heartbreaking melodrama. Sure, bandana dampers have their place, but the roadblock to empathic distress is likely Wahlberg, who plays enough vague notes to make the character mushy, ill-defined, and slightly shallow. Your Joe Bell is on the path of change, understanding and forgiveness (and patience, consideration, empathy and, and, and), leaving behind anger, fear and ignorance. I understand that the character is looking for a bit of clarity, but his internal conflict remains opaque, trapped behind the stereotype of direct frankness and the edginess of the common man stereotypes.

The Miller-centric scenes and nuanced performance show more potential for dramatic impact, sometimes bringing out the best in Wahlberg (for example, when they joke about drag queens posing as Cher and Dolly Parton). Miller is the focus of the aforementioned stunt, a twist at the end of the first act that I won’t reveal, although I suspect you may have figured it out before it happens. Jadin’s character is subsequently de-emphasized, and what we’re left with is a depressed and determined Wahlberg, doing everything we’d expect from such a character. It doesn’t seem like enough.

Our calling: SKIP IT. Joe Bell he is serious in his intention. It features a handful of solid scenes and is not overly manipulative, and there is no arguing against its passionate plea for kindness over cruelty. But all of this is not enough to make it memorable, or even fuel a good cry.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.


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