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

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

8 min read

Quantrell D. Colbert

Roadside Sights

Mark Wahlberg, proper, and Reid Miller in “Joe Bell.”


 (1.5 stars)

Based mostly on a real story in regards to the bullying of a homosexual teenager and its tragic penalties, the drama “Joe Bell” has a message to ship. That message, which is nice and mandatory — pressing even — isn’t merely the purpose of this well-meaning film. It’s the entire plot, which follows {the teenager}’s father, performed by Mark Wahlberg, as he undertakes a mission to boost consciousness in regards to the results of homophobia by strolling throughout America whereas giving speeches. However as delivered by this movie and its titular important messenger, these phrases feels much less very important than perfunctory, extra preachy than actually, deeply felt.

Impressed by the lifetime of Joe Bell, a person who got down to stroll from his house in Oregon to New York after his 15-year-old son Jadin was picked on and tormented in school — resulting in an particularly horrible final result in 2013 — the movie stars Wahlberg within the title function, as Joe hikes from small city to small city, talking in entrance of college teams and different small gatherings. His remarks are quick and awkward. Adopting a scowl, a trucker cap, a scruffy beard and a countrified accent, Wahlberg’s Joe simply doesn’t know what to say to persuade anybody of something, together with his son (Reid Miller), who seems in flashbacks to have had a strained relationship along with his father, and a considerably higher one along with his mom (Connie Britton).

Alternatively, the connection between Joe and Jadin appears fairly good in scenes from the street, the place the boy seems as a metaphorical apparition to assist Dad work via his guilt and discover closure about his function within the tragedy that precipitates Joe’s journey. Their imaginary conversations are a gimmick, in fact, 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 idiot you. “Joe Bell” bears no similarity to their subtly understated 2005 adaptation of Annie Proulx’s quick story about homosexual cowboys in love, different the theme of homosexuality and the West.

Quantrell D. Colbert

Roadside Sights

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

Though Miller is superb because the doomed teen, Wahlberg appears out of his league right here, besides within the actor’s rendering of Joe’s acute discomfort with public talking and confrontation — which is odd in a film that wears its coronary heart, and its classes, on its sleeve. Maybe the tongue-tied Everyman is true to life. The actual Joe Bell wasn’t a media creation, however a flesh-and-blood one that hoped his actions would communicate louder than his phrases.

Nonetheless, as Joe makes his approach towards New York, the character looks like he’d favor it if all people simply left him alone. Emotional scenes — or at the least these by which Joe isn’t yelling and cussing at Jadin and the boy’s finest good friend Marcie (Morgan Lily) to take their cheerleading follow classes to the yard, the place the neighbors can’t see — appear taxing on Wahlberg’s talents, that are arguably higher suited to motion movies just like the sci-fi reincarnation thriller “Infinite.”

There’s some character growth right here: Joe finally will get higher at making his case to strangers, because of suggestions from his son, who lives solely in Joe’s thoughts (and as a careless storytelling machine in service of the primary character’s redemption). Joe additionally finds a small measure of peace concerning his complicity in Jadin’s destiny, making the film’s concentrate on the daddy, quite than the son, really feel out of whack.

“Joe Bell” tells a really particular story about martyrdom. In a approach, although, it additionally appears like a tiny bid for redemption by Wahlberg, who was himself convicted of an assault, at age 16, in opposition to two Vietnamese males in 1988 Dorchester, Mass. The long-ago echo of that real-world assault — arguably one other hate crime, for which the actor served 45 days — reverberates all through what’s finally the vacancy of “Joe Bell,” like a name for forgiveness of one other type.

R. At space theaters. Accommodates sturdy language, together with offensive slurs, some disturbing materials and teenage partying. 93 minutes.

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