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Film Review: The Last Rites of Joe May

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Wednesday, October 26 2011 and posted in Reviews

A new film by director Joe Maggio about a man who just wants to matter to someone.


"Joe May!  I thought you were dead!"

It can't be easy to know that you've disappeared.  At the end of his life, that's exactly what Joe May (Dennis Farina) finds out he's done.  Not just recently, but he's been invisible his whole life. 

When Joe gets out of the hospital, he finds out that he doesn't really exist anymore.  In the seven weeks he had been getting treated for pneumonia, he's pretty much forgotten about by the world at large.  Nobody comes to see him in the hospital, his car gets impounded and sold at auction, and his landlord even gives away his apartment.  All it takes is seven weeks for Joe May to become forgotten.

The Last Rites of Joe May is an interesting character sketch by writer/director Joe Maggio about a man who did less and mattered little.  A small-time crook even in his prime, Joe spends much of the running time of the film trying to make amends with the fact that he has less than nothing, and eventually learning how to make do with what he does have.  The film is a heartfelt, slice-of-life drama carried by a genuinely sensitive and affecting lead performance by Dennis Farina.  The idea of Joe May as a guy who spent his whole life settling for barely more than what he has is written all over Farina's face and imprinted in the way he interacts with the world that's moved on without him.  Originally written to take place in Brooklyn, Joe May makes great use of its Chicago locations.  This is the Chicago of back alleys, small diners, butcher shops and run down apartments – effectively a side of the city not often seen in films.last_rites_1MAIN

The most noticeable thing about Joe May is how surprising it can be.  While seeming to head towards cliché plot developments, it veers into some unexpected places in the name of illustrating the humanity in Joe's story.  The film is often quiet and engaging, even lyrical at times.  Joe essentially takes a journey through his own life and finds that it's pretty empty.  Closer to the end of his life than the beginning, he spends the third act figuring that he can do something right for the world, and make some small impact somewhere.  Most of the film shows him trying to hang on to his sense of self, but in the end, there's something else for him to live for.

The Last Rites of Joe May will be released on VOD Friday, October 28 and theatrically in New York and Chicago November 4. 

Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch


As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
 

 


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