Review: Craigslist Joe
PLOT: Joseph Garner wanted to try an experiment. Questioning the human race and its need to focus on technology as opposed to each other, he attempted to make a documentary about connecting to others using the very thing that tears us apart... specifically Craigslist. Refusing to bring anything aside from a cameraman, his computer and the clothes on his back, Joe attempts to trade for all his needs. Will he be able to survive or will he give up and return to his comfortable apartment in Los Angeles?
There is a certain joy in a little movie that comes out of nowhere. The idea of following someone around as they attempt to use Craigslist for all their needs seemed like a bad reality television show. However, filmmaker Joseph Garner offers a thoughtful and sometimes emotional journey across the United States with a quick detour through Mexico - to discover something unusual
sometimes people are good.
With CRAIGSLIST JOE, Garners intention was to survive for 31 days with no money and no credit cards while wearing only the clothes on his back. His journey takes him to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to an aging actress diagnosed with cancer. From city to city he posts ads on the popular website in hopes that he can find food, shelter and possibly a break dance class. The strength of this documentary rests partially on Joe himself. Garner is a likeable young man who seems to find hope, especially when his most basic of needs are given to him from somebody he met online. Even when a young woman gives him a bag of stale chips he treats it as a gift to be treasured.
Garner carries with him a sort of aw shucks charisma that is easy to connect with. This is especially apparent judging from the level in which many strangers seem to relate to him. It is strange to see so many people willing to take this outsider in just because he posted an ad, or to see the many folks willing to share a long ride with Joe and his cameraman. One of the most enjoyable moments is when he rides along with a fellow traveler up the west coast. It is especially compelling as the van they are driving keeps breaking down. This happens early on and it is near impossible to believe that Joe was as lucky as he seemed to be, aside from a few nights where he had only the shelter of a local coffee house with WiFi of course.
To say that JOE wears its heart on its sleeve would be an understatement. A few moments throughout, Garner just begins to cry. At times the jaded film viewer in me questioned the sincerity of it all. While walking the abandoned streets where Katrina hit, tears stream down his face and he gets choked up wondering how it could happen. This sequence, while certainly affecting, seemed very manipulative, simply used to play on the audiences heartstrings. Of course maybe that isnt such a bad thing as we all need a reminder of the good we have in life.
CRAIGSLIST JOE may feel slightly skewed to present a case for the importance of a community, yet it is hard to deny the impact it left. As much as I wanted to step back from the emotionally charged moments, you cant help but feel a little lump in your throat. Whether or not this was the documentary it claimed to be or a well thought out experiment with all the players carefully lined out, it works. Joseph could have gone home at any time. Yet much like the survivors he discovers on his enlightened road trip, he leaves viewers with a sense of hope and heart. Manipulative or not, it is still an intriguing study on the human animal and the need to connect beyond just a Twitter update.
|Extra Tidbit:||Zach Galifianakis is one of the executive producers of CRAIGSLIST JOE.|