Monday, March 19, 2012

The Last Rites of Joe May (2011)

Directed by: Joe Maggio
Starring: Dennis Farina, Gary Cole, Jamie Anne Allman, Merideth Droeger

Joe May (Farina) is a sixty-something short money hustler. The opening scene of the film finds Joe checking out of the hospital after a lengthy battle with tuberculosis. Upon his return to his Chicago neighborhood, he finds that life has moved on without him. His car is towed and then auctioned off, he has very little money in the bank, but most of all, his apartment has been rented out to a single mother, Jenny (Allman) and her young daughter, Angelina (Droger.) Showing signs of terminal illness, Joe is washed up; however, he is too restless to retire from the business. When he has no place else to go, Joe is taken in by Jenny and her daughter. He soon becomes the unofficial man of the house, and he quickly bonds with his new roommates, especially the young Angelina. As the narrative unfolds, it is learned that Joe has led a shallow, pathetic life. He is estranged from everyone who ever loved him, and he is not welcomed back into the life he once led by the local crime boss, Lenny (Cole.) Despite all the bad things Joe may or may not have done in his life, he has some redeeming qualities about him. Joe struggles to come to terms with the fact that he wants to better himself.  What is also discovered in the story is that Angelina has an abusive boyfriend who happens to be a Chicago Police Detective. Joe's new life with Jenny and Angelina brings him to a crossroads where he decides to help someone in a last-ditch effort at redeeming a worthless life; but his sacrifice will cost him.

Much like Grand Torino (2008), this film is about a man who has pretty much lost everything and everyone who was once close to him, but finds himself in a new life with new friends. Just like Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) knew in Grand Torino that his former life was meaningless, and his future was hopeless, Joe May decides to sacrifice himself to save someone else from a hopeless situation. In Grand Torino, the hopeless situation was the gangsters that were threatening the lives of Walt's friends. In Joe May, the hopeless situation is the abusive boyfriend that is threatening the lives of Joe's new friends, Jenny and Angelina.

As a Chicago native, and 18 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, this film is a perfect fit for Dennis Farrina. In fact, any film that takes place in Chicago is a perfect fit for Mr. Farrina, for he epitomizes everything that is related to Chicago. He doesn't need to change his accent or learn the lingo to make himself "fit" into character, because he has already lived the live of a Chicagoan.

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