The Last Rites of Joe May (2011)
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Critic Reviews for The Last Rites of Joe May
Farina is terrific, getting the pathos of the character while avoiding the self-pity, and leavening the tragedy with some occasional sputtering humor.
Veteran character actor Dennis Farina gives one of the best performances of the year in a rare lead part as an aging, down-on-his luck small-time hood in "The Last Rites of Joe May.''
With a few vital strokes - a long, chilly walk and a tired trudge up some stairs - Mr. Farina and Mr. Maggio bring you close...
Mr. Farina has never been more in control of his "instrument," as actors like to say, or more convincing.
Audience Reviews for The Last Rites of Joe May
While not really showing us anything we haven't seen before, writer/director Joe Maggio offers a solid script and a well rounded title character that Dennis Farina swallows whole like a plate of spaghetti.
Farina is so naturally perfect in this character, which shouldn't surprise as he's played mob types most of his career - but here, even when the script teeters into some truly well worn territory (like how Farina wasn't "there" for his son while said son was growing up), he still remains totally convincing.
The setup here is a good one; Farina gets pneumonia and is forced into an almost 2 month stay in the hospital. When released he discovers that his car has been towed, and in typical governmental fashion, have termed the car "abandoned" and therefore sold at auction. He also discovers that his landlord, figuring that Farina is dead, has tossed his possessions and rented his apartment to a single woman and her 7 year old daughter.
Situations force them all together and a bit of bonding ensues, but it is not in the tale itself, but in the character study of Joe May that gives this film an interest factor. A low level hood who survives by fencing stolen or illegal goods, Joe believes that he is a player; far more important than he actually is. His sense of place is made evident in scenes where he cow tows to a boss (wonderfully played by Gary Cole) and then steps outside the restaurant and refuses a gift from a "lowly" driver, like an officer refusing to step into the enlisted men's club.
From his mannerisms and actions we find out not only who Joe is, but who HE thinks he is, and it is his steadfast refusal to believe that his time has passed that makes him a tragic figure. The final resolution shows the measure of a man, and Maggio does a wonderful job of putting it all into perspective with the closing scene involving Cole.
A flawed man, to be sure, but a real one - and Farina gives this character a chance to breath.
Joe Maggio's expectedly bleak tale of an aging, world-weary hustler is striking in almost every aspect. Underrated actor Denis Farina is finally given a well-written character to work with, and the result is a touching, brilliantly understated performance that works as the film's main selling point. As well, Maggio's down-to-earth direction complements the film's grim tone, which is captured excellently through the use of dark lighting and gritty camerawork. "The Last Rites of May" isn't outstanding due to its being routinely-written and sluggishly-paced, but it's nevertheless an unquestionably well-made character study and the obvious high points of both Maggio's and Farina's careers.
Probably the best movie of my favorite fellow Chicagoan, Dennis Farina. A true Chicagoan and great man.
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