JOE BELL (2021)

Directed By: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Written By: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
Cinematography: Jacques Jouffret 
Editor: Mark Sanger 

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Reid Miller, Connie Britton, Gary Sinise, Charles Halford, Maxwell Jenkins, Morgan Lily 

The true story of a small town, a working-class father who embarks on a walk across the U.S. to crusade against bullying after his son is tormented in high school for being gay. Meanwhile, he realizes he is instead missing out on his son’s life back at home.


Though based on a true story it’s a movie that feels more ideal in its instincts to produce a message. Even as the exact message isn’t quite so clear and makes the film feel awkward about its own subjects.

As it is definitely a message movie that ends up being about the main character rather than its message. As we follow an all-American mid-west manly man the films seems to take aim at trying to court for the film. As he deals not only with his son’s sexuality but the lack of acceptance he offered which leads to tragedy and guilt that threatens to Tear him And his family apart.

So the film seems aimed at the character trying to Make amends for his past. What the film is trying to do, Spread the message of his cause and humanize it into acceptance. 

Especially with a tough guy action star Mark Wahlberg is sensitive and open emotionally. Learning the lessons of his wrongs while also learning to be accepting. Even learning to fight for it. Hoping to open more audience members eyes and hearts to teach them about being open to others who are not like them, but help and protect them against prejudice. 

Though for as honorable as the character might be. It shows how hypocritical the character can be and how damaged he is by guilt. Allowing for a complex character, but makes the film More about him Then the message.

Luckily all the performances are believable and strong. Which is a particular strength of director Reinaldo Marcus Green in his previous films KING RICHARD and MONSTERS AND MEN he usually Gets grounded performances out of the stars more than expected by burying them so deep that it never feels Like showboating or a stunt. 

The film manages to stay on message by trying to be poignant. It feels heavy-handed but that might be what is needed in trying to send this film’s message. As not to be some kind of saintly or martyred movie or make one of the wrong characters. Instead of trying to make it a character study.

The film is admirable, we see the main character break down and cry. We watch him as he goes downtrodden and even beat up.  

Connie Britton’s character is the strongest throughout. As she is no-nonsense and always feels truthful. She quickly becomes the film’s heart. As she always seems in the right place with most scenes built to get an emotional reaction.

The film shows the horror of bullying and the prejudices you face when being LGBTQ+ in a small and small-minded community and what is going Against them. 

The film also manages to show some good people in the world and that through it all. We are all Messed up and have our own personal problems, but we should try to help and support one another. That maybe you dislike or choose to hate, has nothing to do with them and says something more about you.

The film spells it all out in the third act. If you think it might be too subtle. Those you love let them know you love and support them. Accept them for who they ate or it might forever haunt you literally.

This is a good-hearted film that feels like it is pandering to a degree. As the story is more told in the aftermath. While literally showing is to don’t judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

The film didn’t seem to ah e much attention upon release. It was on my radar to watch especially with mark Wahlberg trying a more dramatic socially conscious role. Which is a kind of relief from his other usual roles where there is always a certain comfort that can feel Smug or overbearing. 

Even if it feels hypocritical and heavy-handed at times. Especially the Ending. Where it really hits home. As a tragedy with flashbacks. Though have to go with the true story and try to inform. What might have happened on the road. As the film ends up being episodic more about dealing with guilt. That strays from

The message. Especially with speeches that seem not that special and just more short homespun wisdom That could be said at group therapy or an AA meeting. As they Don’t Come off enlightening just basic 

Grade: C+

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