Finding Joe
is a scary documentary. Really scary if you’ve had any doubts about who you are, where you’re going, where you’ve been or how to start fresh. From first time feature-length director Patrick Takaya Solomon, Joe is a special brand of touchy-feely motivational cinema that gives you every reason in the world to call in sick, sell your belongings and head off into whatever direction the wind blows with nothing but a nap sack and a copy of Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God. At the same time, the film highlights how our favorite films follow the same archetypal plot-line by simplifying Joseph Campbell’s academic deconstruction of modern storytelling.

The Players:

The Plot:

The Late mythologist Joseph Campbell’s studies had a great impact on culture, and the film explores that effect through testimonials and interviews with academics, actors, writers, athletes, and entrepreneurs who were inspired by “The Hero’s Journey.”

The Good:

  • The Intro: The documentary opens with the myth of a golden Buddha that was disguised for its protection during wartime and how we are all gold inside once you pick away the exterior. It’s told by possibly the world’s most happy man, Chicken Soup for the Soul author, Alan Cohen. His joy is infectious and it sets the tone for the rest of the film, the film is about how the interview subjects changed their lives by believing in their own gold.
  • The Kids: The mythological stories told by the interview subjects are often acted out in endearing ways by children in costumes. A highlight: one blond mop-top gets “killed” by a sword-wielding ogre. It’s an amusing way to highlight the stories without relying on dusty old pictures.
  • The Message: The film says “Take a journey. Find yourself. Come back better. Share it.” That’s not bad advice.

The Bad:

  • Score: The score for first half of this film makes you feel like you’re watching a trailer. But about forty minutes in, it becomes subdued. If you can tune out the muzak and focus on the message, you’re golden (like that Buddha).
  • The Female Perspective: Finding Joe unfolds with first person interviews by “visionaries” (according to the director), most of whom are men. The few female interviews add little impact to the overall picture. (Rashida Jones seems there only to add a younger voice to the conversation.) Also, much of the mythology described by the interviewees is played out by a gang of costumed kids with what looks like one girl – but it may also be a pre-teen boy with long hair. The mythology Joseph Campbell interpreted and espoused was not so Y chromosomal.

Overall:

This is an inspiring documentary. For those who feel they’ve dead-ended in life, it’s worthwhile to see people out there that have found divine joy in their lives. It’s self-help-y (almost to a fault) but this film isn’t preachy.

Rating: 8/10

Finding Joe hits theaters September 30th.

Trailer: