Astrology: Film: Review: ‘Joe’ (2014)

Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions

Fighting for and protecting another person usually mean one thing. You’re already pretty good at wielding your fists on your own behalf. That’s an apt description of Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage), the titular character of the movie Joe, directed by David Gordon Green and based on a book by Gary Brown.

Toiling in an impoverished Southern locale, Joe is an ethical, no-nonsense foreman in the lumber trade, overseeing the poisoning of already weak trees for eventual clearing. His crew, many of whom have been with him for a long time, know it’s a day’s work for a day’s pay. Suddenly into the mix comes Gary Jones (Tye Sherian), a teenager who wants in on the labor. Joe is impressed and brings the grateful youngster, who’s got a strong work ethic, on board.

Gary genuinely needs the cash. His father Wade (Gary Poulter, in a stunning performance) is a full blown alcoholic with violent tendencies, and the welfare of the boy’s passive mother and spooked sister rests squarely on the boy’s shoulders. But as ex-con Joe gets a better handle on Gary’s family circumstances, he increasingly lets loose his own shadow side which is brimming with huge anger issues. Even Joe’s vicious dog seems to be a projection of its master’s Mars-attack mode. One of Joe’s colleagues puts it all into perspective when he asks his buddy if he truly wants to take  a return trip to the penitentiary.

At its core, however, Joe is about more than Martial aggression and sex. The movie also focuses on a more positive, self-directed Mars, the archetype representing energy, strength and the ability to go after what one wants. Caught at the less conscious end of the Mars spectrum, Joe demonstrates negligible control over his own temper, even as he tries to do the best for Gary. At the opposite end of the pole is Wade, who represents stark passivity and parasitism (read: no action at all). Nevertheless, both men fall prey to graphic bouts of explosive behavior. Gary’s dad may behave like a more identifiable villain, but essentially he’s Joe’s mirror image.

Joe increasingly takes on the role of Gary’s surrogate father. He agrees to let Gary buy his old truck, thereby allowing the kid to achieve a memorable rite of passage, something his birth father is incapable of doing. But other ominous forces are in place, including a fellow itching for revenge because Joe once got the better of him in a bar fight. Whether Joe’s childish self reaches a respectable, internal manhood is, as suggested by Joe’s surname, a matter of ransom. It’s about Joe finding the coin to release his better self.

Astrology Film Rating: ♂ (Mars)

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