The Good: One or two good lines, Generally adequate performances
The Bad: Bland plot, Unlikable and indistinct characters, Lack of amazing acting, Mood
The Basics: The indie film No Way Jose is a lackluster showing for modern middle age adults.
There are very few actors who bowl me over in such a way that I feel compelled to watch whatever new projects they are in. Despite that, based on his performance in last year's Cheap Thrills (reviewed here!), I have been enthusiastically awaiting the next project in which actor Pat Healy would appear. Today, I caught the new independent film No Way Jose and after seeing how Pat Healy could take the audience on a layered, satirical and disturbing character journey, I was eager to see what his part in No Way Jose would be. Alas, Healy is relegated to a handful of scenes where he seems to be doing his best Simon Pegg impression. But Healy was enough to get me through the door, even if he was woefully underused.
No Way Jose is a midlife crisis movie and with stories of midlife crisises in film moving to older and older subjects, it could have been refreshing to see the standard story of a man turning 40 years old and freaking out. Alas, that is not the case with No Way Jose; No Way Jose is not this year's American Beauty (reviewed here!) or God Bless America (reviewed here!). Instead, the 97 minute cinematic outing from Adam Goldberg (who directed and co-wrote the film) and Sarah Kate Levy plods along from an opening that hints at promise and meanders to an ending that seems much more formulaic and inevitable than shocking or in any way compelling.
Jose is 39 and has been steadily dating Dusty while working with his commercially unsuccessful band. After the band performs in a park for a disinterested child's birthday party, Jose and Dusty return home where they get ready for bed. Moments after Jose takes sleep medicine, Dusty downloads an app for her phone that informs her of local predators who are on the sex offender registry. It turns out, Jose is on the registry and the story of his statutory rape (he was eighteen, she was seventeen, her father was in law enforcement) had not been disclosed to Dusty. Jose wakes up the next morning to find Dusty has packed him some bags and is kicking him out. He goes to live with his old friends Gabe and Kate.
At their house, Jose tries to figure out what to do with his life in advance of his fortieth birthday (for which a joint party is being planned for Jose and Gabe and Kate's ten year-old daughter). Gabe begins experiencing a midlife crisis of his own when Kate tells him she is pregnant yet again, this time with twins. Jose visits his friends for poker night and reconnects with his ex-girlfriend Penny, who is not as sober as she had led her Facebook friends to believe. After a particularly humiliating visit to see his half-sister and a drug-induced visit to his temporary lodging by a black Swedish prostitute, Jose figures out what he wants to do.
No Way Jose is problematic on so many levels, not the least of which is that none of the characters seem to know how to use contraception. Beyond that, the film is a narrative without any sizzle or distinction. What motivates Jose? No clue. As the film neared its end, I realized I didn't care. In fact, the last frames of the movie left me utterly without emotional investment. It's virtually impossible to care about the protagonist or those around him, so the impact of the last line completely misses its mark.
It's possible Jose is motivated by fear; certainly his avoiding telling Dusty about his past for that reason (it seems like he is hoping to ride out the clock on the registry). But after the initial set-up, there are no real hooks, no moments in No Way Jose to harken back to and get excited by.
On the acting front, No Way Jose is adequate, but not at all impressive. Eric Siegel seems to be filling the niche John Billingsley would if the budget was just a little higher and every scene Anna Belknap was in, I felt like I was watching lost footage of Leisha Hailey. The reason my mind wandered to such comparisons during the movie was that there were no moments the performers truly made the roles their own. Even Adam Goldberg slouches his way through his own words and the fact that he mumbles through his own songs and lines only adds to the overall "ho-hum" feeling of the work.
At the end of it, No Way Jose is not the worst film of the year - not by any means - but it is so lackluster on every front that it offers nothing to recommend it. Like Jose, it simply is.
For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Lila & Eve
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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