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Joe Gould's Secret
Selection for the Weekend of
I have always been a sucker for a good story. Whether it's a good movie, listening to a relative recount something in their past, or overhearing a conversation on the Metro, I like a terrific tale. That's because everyone has history. Our own lives are epics. In Joe Gould's Secret, one man tries to compile them all.
In this true story, Ian Holm stars as Joe Gould, a bohemian living on the streets of Greenwich Village during the 1940's. Gould is very bright, but acts as if he might be mentally unstable. He spends his days writing down the stories he hears from people in an effort to create an historical record of humanity. Gould keeps this "oral history" in a series of composition notebooks, which he hides in a secret location.
One day, Joseph Mitchell, a writer for The New Yorker, who specializes in profiles about eccentric personalities, meets Gould and becomes very interested in him and the oral history. Mitchell follows Gould around, meets the people in his life and decides to write about him. Sure enough, Gould is the toast of the town, but Mitchell has some lingering questions. When he asks to read the oral history, Gould tries to avoid sharing it.
What is hidden in the oral history that Gould does not wish to reveal? What is Joe Gould's secret?
I am a huge Stanley Tucci fan as you have learned by reading the reviews over the past year and a half. Tucci is the consummate independent filmmaker. He continues to surprise me with his choice of projects and the small, talented acting troupe that shows up in his films. Of course, he's no acting slouch in his own right.
No matter how well Tucci performs in the film (and it is a wonderful, solid understated performance), Holm overshadows him in every scene. He is amazing as the manic, wild-eyed hobo. Holm walks a thin line between making the character too likable and too weird. While Joe Gould must be a character that captures the audience's attention, he can't be too soft and cuddly because that would sacrifice his authenticity.
Writer Howard Rodman does a good job of proving a point stated by one of the characters in the film - "the story doesn't end when the writer stops writing." We always wonder what could happen to our characters when the story ends. That's why sequels do well. In Joe Gould's Secret, Mitchell must deal with the reality that his subjects live on. They still have needs, desires and adventures when he is done with them. Sometimes, it is not a happy ending, but he has never faced this before, and the life after the story scares him.
If you're looking for a quiet gem this weekend, check out Joe Gould's Secret and Ian Holm's possibly Oscar nominated work.
Directed by Stanley Tucci
Written by Howard Rodman
Based on the novel by Joseph Mitchell
Stanley Tucci . Joseph Mitchell
Ian Holm .. .Joe Gould
Susan Sarandon Alice
Steve Martin . Charlie
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