I’ll always remember leaving the screening of “Inexperienced Guide” at TIFF 2018 and a buddy and colleague requested me what I assumed, and I stated, “Grandmas are going to love it.” Sure, that’s extremely reductive of all of the progressive grandmothers on the market, however the quip was meant to confer how a lot I felt it was going to enchantment to a extremely vast demographic and clarify that it was comparatively toothless and eager-to-please. It went on to win the TIFF Viewers Award, using a wave of grandma help, and, effectively, the remaining is historical past. I had an analogous feeling after watching Reinaldo Marcus Inexperienced’s “Good Joe Bell,” a movie that checks all of the containers for broad demographic enchantment, whereas additionally simply not being excellent at what it’s attempting to do by advantage of selecting a shallow, apparent strategy over a fancy, character-driven one.
Inexperienced’s movie tells the true story of Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg), an Oregon man whose son Jadin (Reid Miller) was bullied to an excessive and harmful diploma as a result of he was homosexual in a neighborhood the place that’s principally seen as against the law. After tragedy struck, Joe determined to do one thing drastic: he deliberate to stroll your entire size of the nation from the West Coast to New York, the place Jadin needed to maneuver when he grew up, to a neighborhood that supported him extra. As he traveled the nation, Joe would communicate to anybody who would hear about bullying, stopping at faculties to offer displays and even dropping into homosexual bars simply to debate what occurred to his son. It’s the story of a person whose prejudice was dismantled by private tragedy, after which he used that as a educating software to try to influence the world. If what occurred to Joe and Jadin might change one thoughts, the journey could be well worth the journey.
With a historical past of violence in his personal life and a popularity for macho films that enchantment to the sort of people that Joe Bell was attempting to influence, Wahlberg taking this position is fascinating on a meta degree. Some have known as it picture rehabilitation, and there’s a way at occasions that it’s a bit calculated on that degree, however Wahlberg the actor breaks by means of simply sufficient to really feel real within the position. He well doesn’t lean into an excessive amount of of the melodrama, extra realistically taking part in Joe Bell as a person who’s even angrier now than he was when his son got here out, however a few of that anger is now directed inward. He turns his disgrace and remorse into instruments for change, and there are delicate beats in Wahlberg’s efficiency that different actors would have missed. He doesn’t flip Joe Bell into a totally totally different individual as a result of tragedy doesn’t change us fully as a lot because it refocuses who we had been earlier than.
The issue with “Good Joe Bell” is an overriding one in that the journey simply feels too superficial. The whole lot right here feels remarkably calculated for broadest demographic enchantment, from the tragedy to the journey. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana’s first script since “Brokeback Mountain” is at its greatest when it feels most natural, however that’s extremely uncommon. Scenes really feel focus-grouped and refined right down to a easy floor for max influence, and the entire affair loses its humanity, which is what Joe and Jadin Bell’s story ought to remind us of most of all.
A really totally different father-and-son story unfolds in David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, a candy, endearing fantasy film a few younger man who believes an city legend is the trail to saving his unwell mom. Oyelowo has a very good eye, assisted by robust, vibrant cinematography from Matthew J. Lloyd (“Spider-Man: Far From Residence”), and his film has an enormous coronary heart. Finally, “The Water Man” feels a bit of too slight—it doesn’t come collectively like I hoped it will after the very promising first act—however there’s sufficient to love to suggest watching it when it lands on a streaming service, and, most of all, to encourage Oyelowo to get behind the digicam once more.
The star of “Selma” performs Amos, who has a strained relationship together with his artistic son Gunner (Lonnie Chavis), who’s more and more unsettled by his mom’s sickness. Gunner learns in regards to the legend of the Water Man, a determine within the woods who might have therapeutic energy, and he units out with a woman named Jo (Amiah Miller) to seek out him. From right here, “The Water Man” alternates between Gunner & Jo’s journey and Amos’ makes an attempt to seek out his lacking son, helped by an officer performed by Maria Bello. Rosario Dawson provides delicate humanity to the position of Gunner’s mom.
The TIFF description portrayed “The Water Man” as a descendant of ‘80s journey household movies, nevertheless it’s not fairly there. Sure, the ‘80s movies that so many individuals love blended mythology and family-friendly journeys, however Oyelowo’s not doing a “Tremendous 8” factor right here. He’s not overtly cribbing from the Spielberg playbook as so many individuals have. He has personal voice already, one which understands the right way to use the scope and fantastic thing about the pure world. With out spoiling something, I hoped the again half of “The Water Man” had just a few extra surprises, as an alternative of taking part in out just about as one would anticipate that it will, however its coronary heart and soul are at all times in the fitting place. If Oyelowo can discover a barely extra formidable script, he might actually make waves as a director too.