Film Scouts and Newsweek at Sundance 1999

Joe the King

One of Joe's first lasting impressions came from being humiliated in front of his class by the teacher for trying to hide the fact that his father was the school janitor. Five years later, Joe is still ashamed of his father, but now it's for being an abusive, unemployed alcoholic.

Set in the 1970s, Joe the King is a touching portrayal of a kid who feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. Through beautiful cinematography and a nostalgic sound track, writer/director Frank Whaley does a wonderful job of capturing the nuances of the time period. Joe is a victim of good intentions gone wrong. Forced to work illegally as a dishwasher in a restaurant, he has no qualms about stealing from the till to repair other parts of his broken life, including paying off his dad's debts and replacing his mom's album collection, destroyed in his father's drunken rage. Joe eventually gets caught and is sentenced to six months in juvenile prison. He has one day of freedom and sadly spends it playing alone. It's not until he says good-bye to his family that they finally begin to realize what he has sacrificed for them.

The film's greatest strength comes from the compassionate performances by Noah Fleiss as Joe and Val Kilmer as his father. Joe the King truly captures the isolation and raw emotion of Joe's life and honestly portrays the hardships of growing up in a hostile environment.

- Mary Kerr

Directed by: Frank Whaley
Written by: Frank Whaley
Starring: Val Kilmer, Karen Young, John Leguizamo, Ethan Hawke, Noah Fleiss, Max Ligosh
Produced by: Scott Macaulay, Robin O'Hara, Jennifer Dewis, Lindsay Marx
Original Music by: Robert Whaley, Anthony Grimaldi

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