Posted: 10/05/2011


47th Annual CIFF: The Last Rites of Joe May


by Ruben R. Rosario

Opens the 47th Chicago International Film Festival on October 6th.

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The Last Rites of Joe May opens with Dennis Farina as the titular character knocking at the window trying to get some pigeons attention. It gives the audience a look into a man that can relate to the bottom feeders in the city of Chicago because he’s right there with them. The Last Rites of Joe May is a great character study of a man that never made it, that spends his whole life trying to get the attention of people around him, but never can. After being released from the hospital with pneumonia for several weeks, Joe May finds himself having to start all over. All of his worldly possessions are thrown out and all of his former friends have either abandoned him, gone to an old folks home or just plain forgotten about him. He finds himself moving into his former apartment with a single mother named Jenny Rapp (Jamie Anne Allman) and her young daughter Angelina (Meredith Droeger). Joe finds himself struggling as he tries to hold on to his old hustling ways and become a new role model for his new surrogate family.

Dennis Farina gives an excellent performance as the aging small time hustler that never made anything with his life. His usual comedic flair gives Joe May a very likable personality, but it’s his portrayal as this forgotten relic of a man truly makes him shine. Joe Maggio’s original script gives Farina a chance to show off his acting chops, as opposed to his usual playing of a wise guy or mouthy police officer (which is what Farina used to be, a Chicago Police Officer). Gary Cole also does a great job as playing Lenny, a big shot gangster that makes Joe realize that his days of doing small time jobs are over. The entire cast of the film does an excellent job at the material that Joe Maggio has given them and that Maggio has fully realized through them.

This is 5th film as a director and shows how much promise he has as an independent voice in American cinema. The world that he depicts in the Chicago within The Last Rites of Joe May is so spot on and gives a perfect visual representation of the city. Not only this, but in its characters, in its locations and dialog that everyone uses that make the film really come to life. Joe Maggio has done a fine job at making an intimate character study as well as a seminal film that represents Chicago, even if it’s an examination of a bottom feeder on the food chain.

The Last Rites of Joe May
is a fantastic film and fits perfectly to open the 47th Chicago International Film Festival. As a film that was shot in Chicago as well as taking place there, it fits tonally and ideally for the festival. Hopefully audiences will be able to see the dramatic range of Farina as well as the originality of Maggio as an independent filmmaker with The Last Rites of Joe May.

Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.

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