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Bill, a wealthy businessman, confronts his junkie daughter's drug-dealing boyfriend; in the ensuing argument, Bill kills him. Panic-stricken, he wanders the streets and eventually stops at a bar. There he runs into a drunken factory worker named Joe, who hates hippies, blacks, and anyone who is "different", and would like to kill one himself. The two start talking, and Bill reveals his secret to Joe. Complications ensue. Written by
Caution-possible spoilers ahead .. Just watched 'Joe' for the second time. The first time was 30+ years ago on an Air Force Base. I was reminded of that by the Air Force overcoat with Tech. Sgt. stripes wore by the boyfriend/dealer; we airmen had quite a laugh the first time that appeared on the screen because that is a 'lifer' rank. Over the years I have carried several other images from the film. Foremost was the absolutely beautiful and vulnerable daughter of the executive. As someone else commented, you could not take you eyes off her. I did not realize until now that this was a 20-year old Susan Sarandon in her first movie. What a loss that she did not do more movies when she looked like that. I also recall the irony of having a counterculture hero like Peter Boyle playing the title role of a right-wing gun nut. Not unlike George C. Scott playing generals in Dr. Strangelove and Patton. And of course the shocking ending made a lasting impression.
30+ years ago it was the most talked about movie that ever played on the base. We thought it was a great film then and I have been reluctant to see it again because I was afraid that it would be as disappointingly dated as Easy Rider. But watching it today I was amazed at how well the film has held up. It is a very strong script with few holes although you have to wonder about the boyfriend immediately getting out of the bathtub when Sarandon gets in with him.
Searching for an explanation of why this film is still so entertaining I have to think it has something to do with the perfect physical casting. Boyle was physically believable as Joe (as others have pointed out his portrayal would inspire the Archie Bunker character a few 'years later). Did Ted Knight model his 'Caddyshack' character-Judge Smails after the Dennis Patrick's advertising executive in 'Joe'? They look alike and sound alike. Patrick was totally believable as the wrapped-too-tight upper middle class executive. And Sarandon's doe-eyed innocent with the Raggety Ann doll still evokes a protective response from all male viewers-perfect casting.
The nude and drug scenes actually hold up (they were very provocative for their day) and are as explicit as anything to be found in 'Thirteen'. About the only thing that dates this film is that the violence is not realistic or graphic. 'Joe' was about the same time as 'The Wild Bunch', and the tone of movie violence had a just begun to change.
Another reason this film holds up is that events in the past couple of years have brought back the relevancy of the theme and context of this film. In the film both types of 'conservatives' are portrayed as full of fear and hate toward the unconventional ways of the counterculture; and filled with envy at their free and hedonistic lifestyle. The counterculture is portrayed as mocking the straight culture; and although paranoid toward conservatives (legitimately so given that this was just a couple months after Kent State) they cannot resist flaunting their lifestyle in an attempt to antagonize. The political landscape is not all that different 30+ years later. I'm not sure conservatives envy young people and liberals as much as 1970, but they fear and hate them more.
An excellent film that surprisingly is as relevant now as it was in the early 1970's.
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