Friday, January 18, 2013

A Few Cards Short of a Full House

What Brandon failed to mention in his post is that I caught him, once again, watching Full House at work. This time, it's fully understandable. Who wouldn't need an Uncle Jesse palate cleanser after watching the grotesque Killer Joe?

You summed up our conversation very well.

My disappointment in Killer Joe is that it is not a noir film. Except that it is. It's a sort of hybrid comedy-noir. Contract killer. Double deceptions. Weakness for wily women. Really bad money troubles. A one-time job. Guys who are in over their heads.

Yesterday, I said that what I love about classic noir films is that they make me FEEL the depths of depravity and it doesn't feel good. It is, as you say, a hit in the gut. To immediately contradict myself, I'll say that it does feel good when it's all over. There's a moral clarity often achieved that makes sense of the darkness. It's good to be beat up in this way because it makes you understand how much you've taken for granted and how much every little choice matters.

In Killer Joe, the darkness is simply reveled in. You're right about the characters and the world they populate. This is low-income low-intelligence lowlife land. Instead of getting an honest portrayal of this life, we're given broad caricatures that fit into "redneck" "trailer trash" stereotypes. Again, this is a broad comedy masquerading as a noir film.

Young Chris can't pay his debts. He'll be killed if he can't pay up. So, he concocts a plan to kill his mother for her life insurance plan. This is a classic set-up. Can't pay because you've made a bad decision. Make an even worse decision in a desperate attempt to get out of the six-foot hole you've dug for yourself. Then, there's even the moment when Chris repents of his actions only to find out that it's all too late. A turning of the noir screw.

The most upsetting part of the film is the Sister Dottie subplot. Dottie is sold by her father and brother into a role as sex slave to a deranged killer. This could have been the basis of a very dark and disturbing twist, but instead we see that Dottie really likes the arrangement and is happy to find a lover. This is the darkest humor in the film. And I think that, in the end, as this relationship is the one that survives, it is winked at and given approval. It's a sly wink and a dark approval, but it's there. This girl who exists as nothing other than sexual fantasy fulfilled is happy to fulfill her role. That's the final lesson of Killer Joe.

You wrote, "Instead it rubs your face in its foulness, incessantly and without even a few moments to catch your breath." Right. But, not quite. There's also a bounciness to the whole affair. The humorous touches that you appreciate keep things light enough to mask the foulness, or at least to make it all digestible. The film wants us to laugh at all of this dishonor and indecency instead of confronting it. Throughout and in the end, we're left in a position of feeling superior: haha, that could never happen to me like it happened to those freakin' idiots. Compare this to the best noir, in which we are implicated in the crime, throughout and in the end understanding that it's only a thin line between where we're at now and the deep well of heinous actions that we could fall into at any moment.

There are positive things that I could say about Killer Joe. But, this is supposed to be a black and white rock em sock em debate. I think I just knocked your head off your shoulders.

Maybe Ben will weigh in. I can't remember if any other clubbers have seen it.

No comments: