A classic film that reflects a balance between early Seventies counterculture and the era's conservative right.
Reviewed by Mike Emery, Fri., March 30, 2001
D: John G. Avildsen (1970); with Peter Boyle, Susan Sarandon, Dennis Patrick.
A classic film that reflects a balance between early Seventies counterculture and the era's conservative right. In some ways, Joe is laughable in terms of the wardrobe and hip lingo, but the message is still fairly potent. At the film's opening, we see two struggling junkies. Melissa (Sarandon) is the daughter of affluent businessman Bill Compton (Patrick). When she flips out on psychedelics and is hospitalized, Dad visits her apartment only to find her gloating, moron boyfriend. They fight , and the loutish hippie ends up dead. A racist, right-winged WASP hard-hat named Joe discovers the truth behind the murder and congratulates Compton on a job well done. When Melissa also learns about this, she flees to the hippie underground with Joe and Bill in hot pursuit. There are few characters to sympathize with. All of the young, groovy types are spoiled brats with criminal tendencies and no future. Compton is a concerned father but harbors a dark side of his own. The title character is a prototype for Archie Bunker but far more loathsome. While Archie was somewhat lovable in his ignorance, Joe is a complete idiot. Boyle (fresh from Chicago's Second City) is a natural in this role and turns in a performance that's frightening and funny. By the second half of the film, there are some exploitation tactics (drugs, orgies, extreme violence) that make it ripe for cult fans. But the underlying themes of class separation and social paranoia in America make some strong statements.