Joe Gould's Secret

Joe Gould's secret is a huge work known as The Oral History of Our Time. This tome purports to be a history of the ordinary person. Gould is an actual person, chronicled in the New Yorker by Joseph Mitchell. Joe Gould's Secret is an adaptation of Mitchell's articles, which tell both Gould's history and the story behind Mitchell and Gould's unlikely friendship. This is also the third outing for Stanley Tucci (Big Night, The Imposters) as director, and in this case, the third time is not the charm.

Gould (Ian Holm, eXistenZ, The Madness of King George) is an eccentric homeless man, also known as Professor Seagull for his purported ability to understand and communicate to seagulls. He travels around New York talking to people and writing down their stories in many small notebooks. Mitchell (Tucci) decides to write an article about him, and befriends him in the process. Gould draws Mitchell into his strange world, wandering the streets and yelling at people. The entire time, Mitchell tries to obtain copies of The Oral History, but Gould always produces excuses. In order to ensure the safekeeping of it, Gould distributed the notebooks across the city with his many friends.

Joe Gould's Secret is primarily a movie about Gould and Mitchell. Nothing much happens otherwise, and all other characters fall to the wayside. Gould and Mitchell's friendship, much to Mitchell's dismay, does not end when the story is written. Now, Mitchell is a part of Gould's life. Tucci has Mitchell examine the line separating the story and the author, and how those lines inevitably blur. Holm is great as Gould, who will discuss life issues lucidly with Mitchell, then squawk petulantly at observers the next. Holm gloriously overplays Gould, bringing a larger than life character to the screen with zeal. Tucci equally underplays Mitchell, a normal man who is at a complete loss at how to deal with Gould.

Holm plays Gould so well that he becomes extremely annoying by the third act of the movie. The adaptation by Tucci and Howard A. Rodman focuses so completely on Gould and Mitchell that no room is left for the story. No reason is ever given as to why Gould is the way he is. Events at the end are also left woefully underexplained. The actual story of Gould and Mitchell is so complex and interesting that it should be fully told and examined. By focusing on this one facet (it is an important part though), it leaves too much out. However, Tucci does apply the same love and care he normally does on his sets and actors, which helps to redeem the movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated R for some language and brief nudity.

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