Review by Jacquelin Hipes
What do you call a film noir that doesn’t feel particularly dangerous or sexy? I’m not sure there’s a right answer, but Eric England seems to be looking for one in his latest film, Josie. In this Southern-set thriller, a mysterious teenager named Josie (Sophie Turner, with a dubious accent) moves into one of the units of a motel-turned-apartment just a few weeks before the end of the school year. Her story changes depending on who asks: the resident busybody thinks her parents will soon follow, while fellow student Marcus (Jack Kilmer) is impressed at her emancipated minor status.
Josie wastes little time striking up an acquaintance with Hank (Dylan McDermott), the shy, middle-aged loner who lives across the parking lot and works as a kind of truancy watch-dog at the local high school. Hank might foster an interest so obvious that it eventually draws the neighbors’ attention, but it’s Josie who pushes their friendship for some inexplicable reason. She also flirts with Marcus and his best friend Gator (Daeg Faerch), stringing all three along in a lackluster imitation of purposeful seduction. When Josie’s true intentions finally come to light in the film’s final minutes it’s with a garish flare that clashes with, rather than invigorates, an otherwise tepid film.
(And fellow Texans may find that Josie ends with an unintentional chuckle, as the story transplants the city of Huntsville into a desert more suitable to Arizona than the muggy southeastern quadrant of Texas.)
McDermott drawls his way through a decently empathetic performance. Hank has no friends, occupies his time with fishing and tending pet tortoises (not the most exuberant of companions), and periodically sees the specter of an unnamed prison inmate. McDermott captures that haunted look of a man with a secret past quite well, loping along with the tense caution of someone just waiting for it to catch up.
Turner, on the other hand, relies largely on crop tops and cut-offs to sell her role as the femme fatale. Her generic Southern accent may not be the worst to ever grace the screen…but that doesn’t make it passable either. For a character we’re supposed to suspect of predatory intentions, she makes Josie look about as threatening as one of Hank’s tortoises.
So maybe the answer to the riddle is: boring. England shows a little flair with blocking and swooping camerawork, but the stylistic flourishes can’t disguise that this pseudo-noir lacks the necessary bite to impress.
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