By and enormous, audiences don’t go to the films to observe unprepossessing folks interact in tedious pursuits — nonetheless noble or well-intentioned. And I’ve seen few cinematic sights extra tedious this 12 months than Mark Wahlberg trudging throughout America because the title character of “Joe Bell,” a droopy drama with its ft on the blacktop and its coronary heart set on redemption.
Earnestly directed by Reinaldo Marcus Inexperienced, the film dramatizes the true story of Joe, an Oregon mill employee who decides to stroll towards New York Metropolis in honor of his homosexual son, Jadin (Reid Miller). Joe’s mission is to lift consciousness concerning the perils of bullying, which Jadin, 15, endured each day by the hands of merciless classmates earlier than ending his personal life. As introduced right here, although (the screenplay is by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry), the daddy’s actual mission is atonement.
Flashbacks reveal Joe to be a risky, conservative father who’s displeased by Jadin’s orientation — and his lone-male visibility on the cheerleading squad — with out being overtly homophobic. (He’s additionally the form of man who buys a big-screen TV whereas his affected person spouse — performed by a deglamorized Connie Britton — waits for a brand new washer.) As soon as Joe is on the street, nonetheless, the film turns Jadin right into a sentimental contrivance, a device for example his father’s transformation from short-fused insensitive to self-punishing penitent.
Grim and well-acted, “Joe Bell” is the story of a martyr. Joe’s punishing, monthslong trek, chronicled on Fb and punctuated by interactions with bigots and sympathizers, is riddled with down-home didacticism.
“It’s onerous to face robust in locations the place there are extra church buildings than gays,” one stranger tells Joe in a film that seems far much less serious about Jadin’s struggling than his father’s.
Rated R or homophobic slurs and reprehensible habits. 1 hour half-hour. In theaters.