Projections - Movie Reviews

Joe Gould's Secret Joe Gould's Secret

Stanley Tucci's third film is Joe Gould's Secret and it will appeal mostly to Greenwich Village denizens and readers of New Yorker magazine who recall the work of the late Joseph Mitchell.  In encapsulating the nomadic and literary milieus of Mitchell's famous subject, Joe Gould, Tucci's profile has a quiet keenness that sometimes is undercut by a rigid nature that permeates from the titular character endowed with lucidity by Holm.  But, though the drama may not rise to the occasion, an intimacy in studied fashion makes the life of a crabby little man empathetic.

From the start, the camera enhances the handsome images of Mitchell's Village local, as Tucci uses slow motion shots in highlighting street life.  Then he introduces a home life with Theresa (Hope Davis) and two young energetic daughters.  Patrick Tovatt brings a droll, pungent demeanor to Mitchell's editor, knowing his talent for the page over conversation.

The legendary New Yorker writer first glimpses the rumpled Gould in a diner as the ornery one irks the proprietor by putting ketchup in his soup.  Mitchell gets wind of Gould's The Oral History of Our Time, a huge book that is a diary of what is said by average folk, supplemented with philosophic essays penned in composition books.

The hobo who carries some of the manuscript inspires Mitchell to do a piece relating to Oral History and Gould's persistent pleas for funding furthers his dream project, besides keeping him alive.  And the astute, if un-thrilling script from Howard A. Rodman nicely balances Mitchell's personal life with his chronicling of Gould into fame from his first piece that brought him letters and financial contributions.

The underground author moves in and out of Village taverns and cafes with Mitchell and the undeterred bum goes to poetry reading sessions for the buffet.  Through Indian dances he has gotten the backing of such notables as Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings, along with a gallery owner Vivian Marque (Patricia Clarkson) and painter Alice Neel (Susan Sarandon) who has comically endowed him on her canvas.

Gould's hard life revolves on advocating of the excellence of the on-going Oral History in its unpublished state.  Mitchell gets the favorable piece published even with much of it said to be inaccessible at a Long Island duck and chicken farm.  An anonymous donor leads to a place to stay, a table at the classy Minetta Tavern and a meeting with a top publisher Charlie Duell (Steve Martin).

Its deliberate way of strolling reveals the inability of Mitchell to get underneath the stinky, nosy man who's gained much attention and Tucci can't repress any more of his professionalism in a confrontational climactic moment.

Tucci and Rodman aren't concerned about why Mitchell is driven by the Harvard bred, "dropout" Gould, but the emotion is taciturnly there as Mitchell, Davis' photographer, is fascinated like Joe, with everyday life.

Analogous to Cradle Will Rock, Joe Gould's Secret excels in a preciseness to period detail in capturing the social climates with a snappy veneer, from the New Yorker offices to pubs and even the subways where all classes have a good looking quality.  Tucci takes his time to extend scenes to make them multi-dimensional.

When Joe Gould's secret is spelled out, Holm is less obnoxious and soliciting, as tunes like Am I Asking Too Much and I'll Never Be The Same have more power in a flavorful, yet unassertive film that may have those who see it search out Mitchell's stories of literary lowlife.

Joe Gould's Secret

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