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Around 1940, New Yorker staff writer Joe Mitchell meets Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village character who cadges meals, drinks, and contributions to the Joe Gould Fund and who is writing a voluminous Oral History of the World, a record of 20,000 conversations he's overheard. Mitchell is fascinated with this Harvard grad and writes a 1942 piece about him, "Professor Seagull," bringing Gould some celebrity and an invitation to join the Greenwich Village Ravens, a poetry club he's often crashed. Gould's touchy, querulous personality and his frequent dropping in on Mitchell for hours of chat lead to a breakup, but the two Joes stay in touch until Gould's death and Mitchell's unveiling of the secret. Written by
In my home town, I never felt at home. In New York, New York City, in Greenwich Village, down among the cranks, and the misfits, and the one runners, and the has-beens, and the might-have-beens, and the would-bes, and the never-wills, and the God-knows-whats, I have always felt at home.
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With all the garbage that's been coming out in the theaters recently, I've taken to staying home and renting movies that never made a big splash at the box office. With Joe Gould's Secret, I lucked out and enjoyed a movie that was better than I could have imagined.
All the performances, most notably Ian Holm's, are stellar. The scenes of 1940's New York will fill you with nostalgia, even if (like me) you were born well after that time. Occasional appearances by the always wonderful Susan Sarandon and Steve Martin only heighten the pleasure of a perfectly-acted, -filmed, and -directed gem of a movie.
But, in the end, it is the character of Joe Gould -- brilliant, mad, heartbreaking -- that makes Joe Gould's Secret so perfect. He is the farthest thing imaginable from the "cute homeless guy" stock character of your typical insulting Hollywood script.
Do yourself a big favor and see this movie.
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