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2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Sam & Joe
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by Scott Weinberg

"Divorce is sad and painful. Don't make it worse by getting back together."
4 stars

A good way to judge how engrossing a movie is, is to have the DVD image suddenly BLOOM into an explosion of pixels and glitches. 45 minutes into Sam & Joe, I figured that either the disc was damaged or my player needed a scrub. As I popped up to remedy this irritant, I found myself hurrying a little bit... because I actually CARED about what was going on in the movie.

Clearly made with limited funds, but housing a surprisingly personal tale of love and loss, Jason Ruscio's Sam & Joe certainly isn't the most polished little indie you'll ever see. But the story's the thing, and if a movie can keep me engrossed despite some technical glitches and 'first-time-filmmaker' speed bumps, then it's a movie I can recommend.

If all you like is polished studio product, you'll not appreciate the grass-roots delivery of Sam & Joe - but I get sent a whole lot of 'review my movie' movies, and this is one of the more insightful and involving 'people stories' I've seen in some time.

A bi-level character study told through a series of alternating flashbacks, Sam & Joe tells the tale of a relationship slowly devolving to the point of tragedy. Joe sits on a bar stool, flirting with a lovely gal. He mentions having a son, but little else in the way of personal information. After a one night stand, Joe divulges to his newfound friend that he used to be married to a wonderful woman - whom he ended up killing.

Then we switch to Sam's tale as she struggles to succeed at a new job while raising a 7-year old... all on her own. She slowly begins a tentative love affair with her new boss, only to return to Joe when he comes back on the scene. That Joe's proven to be physically abusive in the past is hardly a deterrent to Sam; she longs to return to a time when her family was truly happy.

Sadly, her optimism ends up her undoing.

Anyone who's had first hand experience with a situation like this (and really, who hasn't?) will find something to appreciate in Sam & Joe. To an outside observer, simplistic advice like "Don't go back to him" may seem helpful - but longtime romantic relationships inevitably plant seeds of loyalty. Sadly, this loyalty often clouds the judgment of even the clearest thinkers.

What Sam & Joe lacks in spit & shine, it certainly makes up for in realism. The cast, relative unknowns all, DO come across as unpolished performers - but clearly they're indie actors who actually possess some talent. Both leads are strong, though the luminous Petra Wright (XX/XY) impresses most consistently. Michael Ringer brings an everyman sadness to his performance and deftly manages to earn some sympathy for a character who IS a murderer - but clearly is not an evil guy. In a film like this, you can often SEE the performers "ACK-TING"; Wright and Ringer are quite natural.

It's evident that writer/director Jason Ruscio based his film on stuff he's dealt with first hand. I spend so much of my time watching Wizards and Spidermen and Matrixes; something small and chatty and from the heart is always a nice diversion.

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originally posted: 05/19/03 13:20:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Method Fest Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Method Fest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/30/04 mush62 what about the music? 4 stars
9/22/03 y2mckay Well, it was pretty good until the last 20 minutes, when the DVD died on me. 4 stars
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Directed by
  Jason Ruscio

Written by
  Jason Ruscio

  Petra Wright
  Michael T. Ringer
  Jeffrey Donovan
  Gina Philips
  Dawn Cody
  Rod McLachlan

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