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Months of Meryl: THE RIVER WILD

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Did You Gag on "Killer Joe"?

My screenings these past two weeks -- cram session! -- to complete year end business, have been like one wild tonal shift after another swinging as they have from meta rib-nudging (Seven Psycopaths) to the hormonally twee (Take This Waltz), severely depressed (Oslo August 31st) and on through the defiantly stiff and self-medicated (The Deep Blue Sea)... I can't possibly write about them all. But I did feel the night to blurt out (choke out?) a few sentences on William Friedkin's Killer Joe based on the play of the same name by Tracy Letts.

Friedkin and Letts aren't quite joined at the hip as collaborators go despite the Oscar winning filmmaker taking the cinematic reigns on both Bug and Joe. Letts most acclaimed play August: Osage County went to another filmmaker though it's fascinating to think what Friedkin might have done with the material. He is, after all, at least as willing as Letts to attack his material with edgy flair, wicked humor and artistic abandon... for better and worse.

[NC17 madness and two SPOILER images after the jump]

For Killer Joe, I feel they missed at least one marketing opportunity: every ticket purchase should have come with a leg of fried chicken to gnaw on during the movie and a complimentary post-movie shower at the nearest residence (meet your neighbors! ...and make them very very uncomfortable) Killer Joe is so low rent and seedy, so proudly disreputable, that paying for it through a sterile invisible wifi connection seemed altogether wrong. Shouldn't I have had to bring a greasy bag with cash in it somewhere to watch the movie. Maybe through a peephole? 

It's the only movie this year that gave The Paperboy a run for its status as The Ultimate Outre White Trash Champ. Alas only one of them made trash king John Waters "Best of" List this year and that would be this one right here. Killer Joe details the violent downward spiral of a trailer park family once they hire a dirty cop (dirty in both senses of the word, as Matthew McConaughey ably illustrates) to off their absent biological mother for insurance money.

Regarding the cast: Thomas Hayden Church is always likeable onscreen even when he's playing creeps and he's solid again here albeit in the least showy role (also ;ooks good in longjohns); Gina Gershon's grade A screen presence is a mystery to most directors (sadly) but add Friedkin to the tiny handful of directors who "get" her and thus reap indelible Gershonian rewards; Matthew McConaughey is perfectly cast as the title character whose "eyes hurt"; Emile Hirsch is perfectly cast only when he's not cast at all; And Juno Temple is... hey, shouldn't this have been a Juliette Lewis movie in the 1990s instead?!?

OMG. a director who lets several cast members be in a frame together. And frequently?! Please let this happen for August: Osage County... though I doubt it will.

Have you seen Killer Joe and/or Bug and if so what do you make of the Friedkin/Letts partnership? As for Gina Gershon who else besides Olivier Assayas (demonlover), the Wachowski Siblings (Bound) Paul Verhoeven (Showgirls) and Friedkin do you think could ever make proper use of her in a movie?


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Reader Comments (22)

Gershon was SO fantastic in this. I thought the movie was hit or miss (and it looks like you agree with me that Emile Hirsch was awful) but GG was making it happen.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJA

I loved this film. I thought McConaughey was terrifying in it. I wish Friedkin was directing August Osage County.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

You're giving away the shock of actually seeing the film with at least two of those images.

I like Emile. And have you completely blanked out BOUND in Gina's gallery of characters.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Nat -- I know you loved Reprise so I'd love to hear your thoughts on Oslo. It's easily making my top three this yeart!

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSid

I loved it. Glad McConaughey got a lead Spirit Award nomination for his work here, and happy Toronto selected Gershon as Supporting Actress. She was perfect.

I still feel Friedkin is underrated. Consider the 1-2-3 band of Boys in the Band, The French Connection and The Exorcist. Oh, and then Sorcerer. Bug and now Killer Joe. Might we have a Friedkin appreciation festival soon?

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

/3rtful -- you're right so i've added a SPOILER tag before the jump and a Bound mention.

Josh -- so do I. so do I.

December 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I agree with Sid (and Ebert) about "Oslo," but I have complicated feelings. It may be my best film of the year, but I have no desire to see it again, and I recently told a friend, a sort of depressive intellectual, NOT to see it. SPOILERish: People talk about the violence in a movie like "Django," as if it'll cause someone to kill, but isn't it just as likely that a movie like "Oslo," beautiful and non-violent, could cause the right person to kill himself? I mean, wasn't the movie, on a basic level, a clear and reasonable demonstration of why an intelligent, good-hearted man could find no reason to live?

By the way, thanks for the picture of McConnaughey naked. Clearly there's at least one reason to live!

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Walter

I see McConaughey getting a double Film Bitch nomination? Becuase he is PERFECT here, even more than in Magic Mike.

(Why don't you use that 10 word review mode to let us know what you think about all those movies?)

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Will Gershon make your long list for supporting actress? I thought she was brilliant, she'd be in my top six, easily. That opening scene. Woah.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMorganisaqt

I loved Killer Joe. Thought it was a hilarious, disgusting and tense ride. Matt deserves a Best Actor nod, he's just brilliant. And both Gina and Juno are terrific and also deserve nominations. And that finale! I was laughing and gagging at the same time.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I didn't like Bug at all, so I was surprised how much I loved this. The ensemble is wonderful, it's defiantly trashy and everyone seems to know exactly where they need to be. Everyone digs in with gleeful abandon and it was surprisingly hilarious. It's not something I would sit and watch a million times, but even so, it may end up in my collection.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Didn't like Killer Joe all that much, but I thought the climax was creepy and intense. Definitely ended better than it started. Not sure if the Letts/Friedkin partnership will bear more fruit, er, chicken wings.

"That scene" is one of the most twisted of the year, easy. More twisted than anything in The Paperboy.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVince Smetana

I loved Killer Joe ... It was trashy in the worst way, but... The Paperboy was not as bad as this... but I just, for some reason, did not care for any of it!

Gina Gershon has always been an actress I have sought out .. she usually makes a bad movie worth seeing.

Matthew has had a solid year ...I think I liked him in this even more than in Magic Mike ... is that a little twisted?!?

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I haven't seen it, and I've got to say that image of MMC (with a dildo?) is really disturbing. Anyway, I have a linguistic or sociolinguistic question, what's the difference between white/trailer trash and rednecks? That is, assuming white trash and trailer trash are basically the same thing. And also, what's the name if trashy characters are not white?

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I want Friedkin and Letts to collaborate on Letts' good plays. Shame they're all going to other directors. Killer Joe was written when he was in college for Pete's sake. He's aping Tennessee William's archetypes and story structures with the white trash answer to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Love Bug and love the tone of Killer Joe. Not so hot on the predictable story (save the chicken leg scene). The acting is excellent. Who knew Juno Temple could play Juliette Lewis so well? It felt a whole lot less stagey than Bug, but there wasn't enough substance to back up the freer approach.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Did not care for KILLER JOE, but I did like BUG. I suspect the material is key, since they both share a very off-kilter directorial style. I just found the characters of KJ to be, mostly, really boring and unlikeable. I don't need characters to be nice, but these were not people I cared to spend much time with. I think its portrayals of women were particularly off, which is funny considering Gershon and Temple are the best things about it.

I too have been cramming a bunch of films in lately. Mostly all things I skipped at the cinema and have been proven right in my initial judgement. I did, however, really like ON THE ROAD, which I watched today on a screener. So, there ya go.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

When the film ended, the only thing going through my mind was


I didn't know how to feel. I wonder what the hell I just watched. Especially with the chicken leg job.

I can't remember the last time a film made me feel ________.

Just blank.

But three cheers for McConaghey. From introspective stripper epic, hot mess film noir and the "Um...what?" ness of this film, dude is making some interesting choices.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

Killer Joe is great. A perfect disreputable late career masterpiece from Hurricane Billy. Oh how I wish he were given a crack at August: Osage County. I'm afraid we're going to get an embalmed prestige wannabe from John Wells and company. Friedkin would've made everyone bleed.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I watch Bug...You post something about Bug.
I watch Killer Joe.. You post something about Killer Joe.

Letts is our spiritual bond!

I haven't formed an opinion on Joe yet but I certainly did appreciate parts of it (Gershon being one of them).
Not sure yet if there was a point to it all.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I loved "Killer Joe." I craved fried chicken afterwards.

I also saw "Oslo, August 31st" this weekend, and it's probably my new #1 film of 2012, edging past "Holy Motors." The film is basically "Before Sunrise" except with a drug addict and even ends on a similar coda as Richard Linklater's film, shots of the places Anders visited but now empty of his presence. It's such a devastatingly poignant film.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Damn on that naked Matt pic. Wonder what the context was for that? It'll be painful to see that gorgeous man all thin and HIV-riddled in "Dallas Buyers Club" this year.

I'm only finding the R-rated version in stores. Are they not selling the NC-17 version? Is this some censorship issue going on that hasn't been covered anywhere yet?

January 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPenny

Penny -- Isn't that always the case with big chain stores? I know a lot of them have rules about carrying NC17 or unrated pictures. Online you can buy either.

January 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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