Main cast: Noah Fleiss (Joe Henry), Val Kilmer (Bob Henry), Karen Young (Theresa Henry), Max Ligosh (Mike Henry), John Leguizamo (Jorge), and Ethan Hawke (Len Coles)
Director: Frank Whaley
Joe the King is supposed to be semi-autobiographical. You’d think the director, now that he’s at least on his two feet, would let in some light into this overly-depressing movie, but no, he does everything but to place a pistol at my head and pull the trigger. Watching this slow death of a boy’s life is such a traumatic experience that I doubt pulling the trigger is a less palatable experience.
Noah’s father is a drunkard janitor and his mother is jaded and weary beyond her young age. Every day he wakes up to be picked upon by a really evil teacher, to be bullied by everyone, and he returns home to hear his parents quarrel. Life can’t be any bleaker for this gangly, awkward, socially dysfunctional boy whose dreams to achieve greatness come off as totally pitiful. When a counselor takes him under a wing, I thought maybe there’d be some salvation at hand.
No. Absolutely not. This story is so involved in its merciless cutting down on Noah that I can’t even find solace in some small acts of defiance from Noah. When Noah does rebel, he is punished tenfold. This movie is in love with pain, humiliation, and degradation. It lets Noah not any chance to dream or even survive. It succeeds: it makes being sent to a Boy’s Corrective Institution a moment to be cheered upon.
Poor Noah, trapped in a movie directed and written by a man so self-absorbed in venting all his childhood frustrations that the latter went way, way overboard somewhere around the 30th minute into the show. I hope Mr Whaley is feeling better now. Somebody ought to, after all the pain I experienced sitting through in this film.