Joe Gould's Secret

Director: Stanley Tucci
Year Released: 2000
Rating: 2.0

Joe Gould was a real vagabond, or so the story goes, who liked to brag and beg for money and leech off others, all the while constructing what he calls "The Oral History of the World," his life's work, a magnum opus of words and thoughts of the people that have lived - this film, which shows us the relationship between Gould (Ian Holm) and a writer for the New Yorker (played by Tucci, who can't just stay behind the camera) and how Tucci makes Gould famous but eventually finds out the truth about his enigmatic friend. It doesn't offer much other than a one-dimensional view of Gould and how people react to him: Gould acts out, chewing up the scene while others look at him with a combination of awe and disgust. He's shameless, he's loud and he uses foul language. He can be a severe pest, bothering Tucci endlessly. Obviously, Gould is a metaphor for all the lost souls of the world who will never be known, who have gained and accumulated knowledge, been "suicided by society," and taken their whole world with them, but this is deeply unsatisfying and downright abysmal, as the theory of the vagrant as historian of a nameless culture is never properly developed. Tucci and crew never get past the idea of Gould as eccentric who does crazy things (ho-hum) and never gets into the implications. Even the bits (read in voice over) of text Tucci's character does get from his dirty friend are never delved into, perhaps as a gimmick to keep the ending intentionally nostalgic and sentimental. Had his secret been anywhere as decadent or cheeky as Victoria's ... well, now, there's a film for you.