Joe Gould’s Secret

Rated: R
Stars:    Ian Holm, Stanley Tucci
Director:    Stanley Tucci
Writer:    Howard A. Rodman, based on the articles “Professor Seagull” and “Joe Gould’s Secret” by Joseph Mitchell

How wonderful it is to find these little gems and thanks to actor-director Stanley Tucci, whose previous endeavors were the wonderful  Big Night and  The Imposters, I’m sure more will be forthcoming. Not only do we get terrific craftsmanship from Tucci in “Joe Gould’s Secret”, we get what amounts to a bravura performance from the superb Ian Holm.

The setting is New York City of the early fifties when Joseph Mitchell’s (Tucci) tales of New York society graced the pages of the  New Yorker magazine and bohemians wrote or painted their lives away in the lofts, coffee shops and cellars of Greenwich Village.

One day, Mitchell discovers an intriguing vagabond named Joe Gould (Holm) who, although highly educated, is one of those people who fall through the cracks of society and ends up a pathetic failure. In Gould’s case, however, he is literate, eccentric, obliging and funny, a man who earns both pity and praise, particularly when he reveals to Mitchell that he has been secretly composing, over the past 26 years, a mammoth literary work called “The Oral History of Our Time”. The Oral History consumes Gould’s every waking moment and his enthusiasm for it interests Mitchell so much that the author becomes the unintentional “biographer” of this loony street person who claims to have documented the wondrous things people have said and how they said it over those many years. It is through Mitchell’s articles that Gould becomes somewhat of a celebrity oddity about town, cherished for his exuberance and forthright nature. He even acquires a sponsor to help him through the bad times.

Old New York looks very good here and Tucci’s touch as a director is keenly measured. Holm goes all out with his character but it’s a beautifully studied performance.

Susan Sarandon and Steve Martin appear in cameos, unnecessarily, I might add.

Lotta says: This is a very well done and intelligently scripted film. Bravo to Tucci and Holm for showing us that films like this can still get made!.

Reviewed 6/10/01