Review: Joe + Belle
From superlative scribe, Sinéad
Joe and Belle is a film which comes incredibly close to hitting the mark.
Veronica Kedar (who plays Joe as well as directing) has, in her feature debut, made a film with some genuine, wonderful moments, but unfortunately, she struggles to tie them together.
The plot is far from simple: Joe is an American-Israeli, living and dealing drugs in Tel Aviv. Belle (Sivan Levy) is a French woman, fresh out of a mental institution, who breaks into Joe’s house, threatens to kill herself in Joe’s bathtub, and then shoots Joe’s ex boyfriend.
As you do.
Crazy women? Never!
The frustrating thing about Joe and Belle is that on paper, the jokes are hilarious, and the poignant moments are resonant. Unfortunately, Kedar seems to have bitten off more than she could chew on this first attempt, and the result is a film which is rife with mistimed jokes, scenes running just a little too long, and a story that packs way too much information into the first half hour, and struggles to a close after 80 minutes.
Saying that, the pulpy storyline is great fun to watch, and when she nails it, she really nails it. Scenes such as when the two share their first kiss in a hotel room (and end up chaining a policeman to a Jacuzzi) are genuinely funny, and in moments like that, you really start to root for these two women to succeed. What Kedar may lack in directorial experience, she makes up for in an incredible performance as Joe, capturing the angsty, nervous energy of someone teetering on the edge, and she plays brilliantly off the deadpan, psychopathic Belle. They have definite chemistry, which overcomes the flimsy plot devices that keep them together.
This is a film with political teeth, too. Every scene is which we see Belle engage in some cartoon violence is countered by a radio ad in the background, of a child talking about the real violence which is happening in Israel. Bombs are falling, and Keplar does not shy away from that.
As a director, Keplar is definitely one to watch. Though in this film, she hasn’t quite achieved what she set out to do, she has succeeded in telling a believeable love story against an unbelievable background, and that is no easy feat. Joe and Belle is not going to win any awards, but if you and your girlfriend are ever torn between watching Jackie Brown and The Itty Bitty Titty Committee, this may be the compromise for you.
Joe and Belle is available for rent at just €3 on BuskFilms