'Joe Bell' movie review: Mark wahlberg plays the father of a bullied teen in fact-based drama. - The Washington Post

Published:Dec 7, 202314:12

Quantrell D. Colbert

Roadside Points of curiosityMark Wahlberg, correct, and Reid Miller in “Joe Bell.”


 (1.5 stars)

Primarily primarily based on a actual story regarding the bullying of a gay teenager and its tragic penalties, the drama “Joe Bell” has a message to ship. That message, which is good and obligatory — urgent even — isn’t merely the goal of this nicely-which means movie. It’s the total plot, which follows {the teenager}’s father, carried out by Mark Wahlberg, as he undertakes a mission to spice up consciousness regarding the outcomes of homophobia by strolling all through America whereas giving speeches. However as delivered by this movie and its titular important messenger, these phrases feels a lot much less crucial than perfunctory, additional preachy than truly, deeply felt.

Impressed by the lifetime of Joe Bell, a one who acquired down to walk from his dwelling in Oregon to New York after his 15-yr-outdated son Jadin was picked on and tormented in school — ensuing in an significantly horrible consequence in 2013 — the movie stars Wahlberg inside the title place, as Joe hikes from small metropolis to small metropolis, speaking in entrance of college groups and completely different small gatherings. His remarks are fast and awkward. Adopting a scowl, a trucker cap, a scruffy beard and a countrified accent, Wahlberg’s Joe merely doesn’t know what to say to steer anyone of one thing, collectively along with his son (Reid Miller), who appears in flashbacks to have had a strained relationship collectively along with his father, and a significantly increased one collectively along with his mother (Connie Britton).

Then once more, the connection between Joe and Jadin seems pretty good in scenes from the freeway, the place the boy appears as a metaphorical apparition to help Dad work by means of his guilt and uncover closure about his place inside the tragedy that precipitates Joe’s journey. Their imaginary conversations are a gimmick, in reality, and a heavy-handed one at that. Though the script was written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who share a writing Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain,” don’t let that fool you. “Joe Bell” bears no similarity to their subtly understated 2005 adaptation of Annie Proulx’s fast story about gay cowboys in love, completely different the theme of homosexuality and the West.

Quantrell D. Colbert

Roadside Points of curiosity

Mark Wahlberg, left, and Gary Sinise in “Joe Bell.”

Though Miller is nice as a result of the doomed teen, Wahlberg seems out of his league proper right here, apart from inside the actor’s rendering of Joe’s acute discomfort with public speaking and confrontation — which is odd in a movie that wears its coronary coronary heart, and its courses, on its sleeve. Maybe the tongue-tied Everyman is true to life. The true Joe Bell wasn’t a media creation, nevertheless a flesh-and-blood one which hoped his actions would talk louder than his phrases.

Nonetheless, as Joe makes his strategy in direction of New York, the character seems to be like he’d select it if everybody merely left him alone. Emotional scenes — or not lower than these via which Joe isn’t yelling and cussing at Jadin and the boy’s most interesting buddy Marcie (Morgan Lily) to take their cheerleading observe intervals to the yard, the place the neighbors can’t see — seem taxing on Wahlberg’s abilities, which might be arguably increased suited to movement films similar to the sci-fi reincarnation thriller “Infinite.”

There’s some character enchancment proper right here: Joe lastly will get increased at making his case to strangers, attributable to recommendations from his son, who lives solely in Joe’s ideas (and as a slipshod storytelling gadget in service of the major character’s redemption). Joe moreover finds a small measure of peace regarding his complicity in Jadin’s future, making the film’s take care of the daddy, barely than the son, actually really feel out of whack.

“Joe Bell” tells a actually specific story about martyrdom. In a strategy, though, it moreover seems to be like a tiny bid for redemption by Wahlberg, who was himself convicted of an assault, at age 16, in direction of two Vietnamese males in 1988 Dorchester, Mass. The lengthy-in the past echo of that actual-world assault — arguably one different hate crime, for which the actor served 45 days — reverberates all via what’s in the finish the emptiness of “Joe Bell,” like a title for forgiveness of one different form.

R. At area theaters. Incorporates sturdy language, along with offensive slurs, some disturbing supplies and teenage partying. 93 minutes.

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