In attempts to be a female Frankenstein story, "Little Joe", directed by Jessica Hausner, tells the story of a female scientist, Alice, who creates a plant that can make people happy. Described by The Hollywood Reporter as "flavorless Europudding", the film was under- whelmingly artistic. The plot lacked structure and scenes did not flow as well as they had the potential to.
The storyline was fairly weak to begin with. The audience is initially introduced to Alice, who is abso- lutely work obsessed. She genetically modifies a plant that can change peoples' emotions and overall make them happy just by breathing in a scent. This project of Alice's surely goes wrong, as people are starting to become brainwashed. However, the brainwashing wasn't all that interesting. The plant, called Little Joe after Alice's son, Joe, was brainwashing people through its pollen in order for people to want to protect it, because the plant could not reproduce. The whole idea of this is just so hard to process, especially within the moment in a theater. It took me awhile to figure things out. The story is bland and straight out confusing for the first hour.
Overall, the point of the plant taking away peoples' emotions wasn't emphasized enough. The acting was nothing special - the actors didn't convince me that the plant was harming them. The performances were so neutral and underwhelming. I couldn't feel emotions from any of the characters, even if there were intense parts within the film. In one scene, we see a character absolutely torn apart due to a build up of depression and other mental illnesses. Because of her job, the woman cannot stand her life anymore and throws herself off a high ledge in her work building. It was emotionless and bland during a time where the performances needed to be intense and dramatic. Hausner could not deliver to her own script's needs.
"Little Joe" was also just a failed thriller film. There was barely any suspense, even though I believe there was meant to be a lot. The pacing within the first hour was slow, trying to focus on family issues. It just took awhile for me to piece things together, which should never be the case (unless done extremely well, like in "Memento").
Though I thoroughly disliked the creative direction that was taken in the film, I would still rate it around a 6/10 solely because there were multiple strong technical aspects that I think a lot of the film critics' reviews overlooked. There was an article written on "Little Joe" that only focused on the negative aspects of it. It gave absolutely no credit to sound design. The sound was probably the best part of the film. The score matched up extremely well with the visuals and the sound effects worked perfectly with it too. The visual images that I was seeing went hand- in-hand with the auditory sounds that I was hearing. It made me feel content within the showing. Speaking of visuals, I appreciated how "Little Joe" used a really difficult color palette, yet somehow managed to keep it strong and consistent. The choice of reds and greens was a bold move, and I didn't think that it could be pulled off. It was - props to Hausner for that. The production designer was impressive and was not afraid to go for the consistent color palette. The image shown above was one of the main looks of the film, and it was color corrected absolutely perfectly. To end, I appreciated how the color palette was introduced to viewers, right from the opening shot.