Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

Custom Search

© 1987-2018
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Love in the age of baristas

“Joe was made by a strong team of women! We have a female producer, screenwriter, director, cinematographer, and assistant director!”

So declares the press materials for a brand-new 20-minute film about life, love and caffeinated beverages in the age of the gig economy. I can certainly understand the filmmakers grabbing onto the hook of newly re-raised awareness about gender disparities in the entertainment industry—and more power to them. Let us not, however, ghetto-ize the solid work of creative professionals into an arbitrary sub-category (“women’s films”) when the quality stands up with so much else that is out there these days. (And apologies if that comes off like man-splaining.)

Shara Ashley Zeiger and Bethany Nicole Taylor in Joe Joe is a charming little comedy with a convenient runtime that just happens to match your standard network sitcom. That is not a coincidence since the filmmakers see this as a pilot episode in a possible series. The premise has echoes of previous beloved sitcoms. A coffee shop in New York was, of course, a central setting for the behemoth Friends. An over-qualified young woman serving up drinks to customers was the initial concept of Cheers. Joe, however, is by no means a copycat of those classics. It has a style and feel all its own. There is something about its bouncy attitude that makes us think that the characters could at any moment burst out into song, although that probably has a lot to do with the upbeat jazzy score by Leeran Z. Raphaely.

As crinkly-haired Jillian, Bethany Nicole Taylor is an engaging protagonist. Discouraged with her work situation but optimistic about life in general, she is determined to persevere in the best Mary Tyler Moore tradition. Shara Ashley Zeiger, who also wrote the screenplay, plays wise-cracking co-worker Monica in the best Rosie-O’Donnell-funny-best-friend tradition. Sean McLaughlin, the love interest, is boyishly fetching in a Keanu Reeves/Chris Klein sort of way.

While the situation of someone at the beginning of her career being embarrassed to take a low-wage job is entirely up-to-the-minute, the film has the pleasant feel of a throw-back. The banter and flirting evoke memories of classic woman-centered Hollywood romantic comedies going back for decades. While the story ties up neatly within its 20-minute limit, there are enough threads dangled before us—deadbeat roommate, fretting parents, annoying boss—to provide plenty of further story development.

If you are interested in seeing Joe and happen to be in Arizona, the good news for you is that the first public screenings will be at the 24th annual Sedona International Film Festival this week (1st and 2nd of March). Other film festivals will no doubt follow, so keep an eye out for it at a fest near you. In the meantime, you can get a taste of Joe by watching the trailer.

You can find more information about Joe at web site and on its Facebook page.

-S.L., 27 February 2018

If you would like to respond to this commentary or to anything else on this web site, please send a message to Messages sent to this address will be considered for publishing on the Feedback Page without attribution. (That means your name, email address or anything else that might identify you won’t be included.) Messages published will be at my discretion and subject to editing. But I promise not to leave something out just because it’s unflattering.

If you would like to send me a message but not have it considered for publishing, you can send it to

Commentaries Archive