Joe (1969)

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Peter Boyle as the titular 'Joe'

Written by Norman Wexler

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Starring Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick and Susan Sarandon

Released after a one year delay, Joe was part of the ultra independent nearly Gonzo style film making of films like Easy Rider that examined the cultural rift between the new age hippies and the older generation of people who couldn’t comprehend what they viewed as a desecration of morals and values in America. When straight laced, white-collar Bill (Dennis Patrick) wanders into a bar for a much needed beer after a violently disastrous confrontation with his young daughter (Susan Sarandon!) and her junkie boyfriend, he meets a loud mouthed blue-collar worker named Joe (Peter Boyle). Joe and Bill have different styles, but they seem to share the same conservative old school values. Joe agrees to help Bill find his wayward daughter to bring her home safely.

They traverse the darker parts of town, finding themselves in the strange creepy world of macrobiotics (sushi) and people living off the grid. They find themselves immersed in hippie culture where their belief systems are challenged by the opportunities of free expression they witness amongst the youth. Confused, shamed and angry they continue on looking for Sarandon with one disaster after another, either of a violent kind of a social faux pax kind in their wake.

It’s a brilliant script that examines the different sides of a society that sees in black and white terms when the situation is much more complicated. Bill and Joe make hypocritical decisions, they find themselves at odds with each other despite a supposedly similar goal and in the end, they accomplish nothing that could be considered good or constructive.

It’s a fascinating deconstruction of the cultural upheavals of the late 60’s and early 70’s that, despite its ultra-low budget and choppy visuals, is still an important social document and in some ways more entertaining than much higher budget fare. Everybody is great in this, especially Patrick and Boyle, who are utterly convincing.


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