A potentially tenderhearted fact-based drama goes astray under the guidance of star and producer Mark Wahlberg (Infinite).
Joe Bell (with ‘Good’ initially attached to it, but wisely omitted) obviously has its heart in the right place in chronicling a road trip to repentance and self-discovery from the dark side of homophobia. Having a message that still may reach those not really attentive to it.
Another Oregon-based film (like the Nicolas Cage pic. Pig, providing more lustrous imagery from its Utah locations) has the eponymous character a temperamental, working0class guy. Ire builds up in him when teen son Jadin (Reid Miler) is persecuted at school and on-line for having come out as gay.
What he experienced with wife Lola (a weary Connie Britton of American Ultra while excelling on the small-screen) has more of a family oriented empathy. This concern has him out to walk from the Pacific northwest to an idolized Big Apple to speak out with awkward intonations against enmity.
How it all unfolds from writing of noted scribes Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain) is mainly uncharacteristically unsubtle and superficial. Except for Jadin’s interest with a closeted jock and a sympathetic, sagely lawman played in brief by vet Gary Sinise. It’s mainly a shuttling back and forth between domestic and on-the-road scenes. In between doling out shreds of familial interplay a course of berating is on hand from the offhanded to the assaultive.
Joe Bell is made by and for folks unlike Jadin of having any clue of who is he really is? It seems that way in the latter case for Joe and director Reinaldo Marcus Green. The unsung, yet undervalued commodity here is Miller, and wouldn’t it have been nice to have this material reflected Fromm a disparaged presence
Wahlberg may put a lot into his portrait based on some degree o his of-screen image (with a tough south Boston upbringing), but it all ends up contritely bland. Less riveting that what Miller does in his more limited arc predicated on at leasts one important topic. The targeted demographic would be advised to look elsewhere, e.g., Love Simon and Boy Erased are recent titles that come to mind.
While coming in a very manageable run time, Joe Bell never manages a stimulating good communication as it has an understanding about virile stereotyping. What resonates in irresponsible fashion surrounds the fear, loathing and scornfulness, not to mention the harrowing abasement from lingering ignorance.