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Hollywood Spotlight - Reviews [Joe Gould's Secret]
ORIGINAL FULL FILM REVIEW
JOE GOULD'S SECRET
R (some language and brief nudity)
Stanley Tucci, Maryse Alberti
Joseph Mitchell, Stanley Tucci, Howard Rodman
Beth Alexander, Stanley Tucci , Elizabeth W Alexander, Charles Weinstock
Ian Holm, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Steve Martin, John Tormey
· Synopsis: [Recommended Reading] Tucci's biographical drama about Joseph Ferdinand Gould, an eccentric who lived in Manhattan in the 1940s and '50s and professed to be writing an enormous work entitled 'AN ORAL HISTORY OF OUR TIMES'.
P eople have sought and pondered long for the solution to homelessness in metropolitan areas around the world, but I propose that there is none. The understanding in which the "Haves" hold the "Have-nots" is that they are victims in need of help. Recently on the streets of San Francisco, a friend offered a homeless person a job cleaning and painting his home for ten dollars an hour. The person declined the offer, stating that they make more than that just sitting there. That doesn't sound like the response of a victim to me, but rather a businessperson. Many homeless have learned how to market themselves and match their expenses to their income for a perfectly balanced budget, resulting in zero asset overhead.
In the film Joe Gould's Secret, we meet Joseph Ferdinand Gould [Ian Holm – Frankenstein, The Fifth Element, eXistenZ, much more..] who is just the sort of self-marketing entrepreneur I am referring to. Joe Gould's Secret is a charming story about Gould's enormous, unprecedented endeavor as an educated and accomplished writer – to write the ultimate history book of the world, "An Oral History Of Our Times". Joe Gould explains that the "Oral History" book is written entirely by hand in composition books, and contains both thoughtful essay components as well as vast collections of conversational nonsense in which the general populous engages on a day-to-day basis. Covering this inter-personal dialog means Gould requires constant contact with people in order to record his findings and such being the case, he has chosen to live without the restrictions of walls and possessions – on the streets of Manhattan. In his every day journeys, Gould collects contributions for the "Joe Gould Fund" from various people whom he meets. Enter Joe Mitchell [Stanley Tucci – The Pelican Brief, A Midsummer Night's Dream, much more..], journalist for The New Yorker, with a quiet, timid quality. Mitchell spots Gould at a diner one day when Gould comes in to receive a contribution (in this case, a bowl of soup). The highly animated and boisterous Joe Gould captivates the writer in Mitchell. After asking around town about Gould, Mitchell connects with him to write a biography about the historian for The New Yorker.
Thus begins a colorful tale of human nature and behavior. Ian Holm portrays the talented, intellectual, yet maniacal idiosyncratic Joseph Gould with unmatched finesse. Stanley Tucci, while his part was not quite so dramatic, was also quite tasteful in his more meek presentation of the journalist Joe Mitchell. It is notable that Tucci, having his fingers in writing, directing and producing the film, allowed Holm's part to dominate the film – and quite appropriately so. Joe Gould's Secret introduces a plethora of personas from all walks of life with a spectacular cast all around. I will also walk out on a limb and predict an Oscar nomination for Ian Holm. My only reservation on the acting for this film could easily be overlooked – Mitchell's children played by Hallee Hirsh [Lolita, One True Thing, You've Got Mail] and Sarah Hyland [Object of My Affection]. Of all the characters in the movie, only these two stood out to me as being unnatural and obvious. Perhaps Tucci, for whatever reason, did not work as closely with these younger actors. If this were the case, the acting presentation would have been superb all around had Tucci made this extra effort.
From a filmography perspective, as an "independent film", Joe Gould's Secret stands out gloriously. Tucci successfully immerses the audience into the early 1940's completely from outdoors to in. From attentively and wonderfully designed sets to carefully and tastefully selected wardrobe, this movie brings forward the style, hustle and bustle of the an era which is all but often forgotten in modern film. Shots were clearly taken with careful, detailed analysis that result in a perfectly framed presentation of the story. I think this is important since all-too-often, independents tend to play tricks with the camera that put the filming style front and foremost on the minds of the viewing audience [Buffalo 66, The Blair Witch Project]. Joe Gould's Secret focuses on the characters and presentation rather than the artistry of the crew that allows the viewer to completely dismiss the presence of the camera.
Now, I have mixed feelings on the film's soundtrack. On the one hand, I found what music there is to be spirited and highly complimentary of the scenes in which it was present. On the other hand, there were only about four or five scenes with music at all and each only lasted so many seconds. Joe Gould's Secret leaves me wanting more. The few pieces that were selected and played were great clips of unknown origin, possibly even original scores for the film, and created a vibrant feeling reminiscent of the times. I believe that additional soundtrack would have more thoroughly engrossed the viewer into the 1940's.
I think Joe Gould's Secret could become an instant cult classic. It is a story rich with life which reaches into the very roots of humanity and is a bit reassuring that there are good people out there in the world. Do yourself a favor and hunt down a theater to spy this film or at least rent it one night if you miss it at the show. If you are looking for large explosions, sultry sex scenes, corrupt military villains, or aliens from outer space, you won't find them here. In their place, you will find a classy presentation of modern people in a distant time where, as Joe Mitchell might say, "nothing really happens at all."