By Will Pfeifer
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 28, 2009
Lately, I've been reading "Nixonland," Rick Perlstein's epic history
of the Tricky Dick era that illustrates in amazing detail just how
America became such a fractured country.
It's a great book, but if you don't want to plow through 900 pages of
hippies versus hard hats, I have a simple solution: Rent "Joe" instead.
Released in 1970, midway through Nixon's first term, "Joe" tells the
story of Bill (Dennis Patrick), a rich businessman who confronts the
drug-dealing boyfriend of his daughter (Susan Sarandon in her film
debut) and accidentally kills him. When he stumbles into a bar to
compose himself, he meets Joe (Peter Boyle), a straight-talking
factory worker who congratulates Bill on the killing, then befriends
him, hoping they can do more of the same together.
Aside from a silly, dated scene where Joe and Bill encounter a couple
of free-loving hippie chicks, "Joe" is a grim portrait of Vietnam-era
America. From the moment Joe and Bill meet, the movie heads toward a
decidedly dark finale, and the nasty twist at the end does not disappoint.
But the best thing about the movie is Boyle. A staunch liberal in
real life (John Lennon was his best man), he's utterly convincing as
a blue-collar guy frightened and angered by what the world is
becoming. After this role, in fact, he swore off violent roles for
years, even turning down the lead in "The French Connection."
Will Pfeifer writes about new DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on
Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-987-1244.