Joe + Belle
If nothing else, "Joe + Belle" proves that, amid near-constant mortar fire from a never-ending war with their neighbors, Israeli teens and twentysomethings can be every bit as self-involved, shallow and boring as their counterparts in the United States.
An obvious vanity production for director Veronica Keder, "Joe + Belle" is a mash-up of the no-budget indie films that send audiences running for the exits at Sundance. There’s just enough of a burgeoning lesbian love affair to qualify for the less-demanding gay film festivals. But anyone looking for any insight into Israeli youth or anything else will be left wanting.
It’s unfortunate because the film doesn’t start too badly. A severely damaged girl, just released from a mental hospital for attempted suicide, runs away when she is told her dog left while she was gone. She ends up in the apartment of a young woman drifting between petty drug dealing, hanging out in dive bars, and a relationship with a guy who makes her look deep. Her frenemy, who is whoring herself out to a married soldier, isn’t much better.
There’s a murder, an attempt to get rid of the corpse, and a "Thelma and Louise"-type getaway. All of it moves at a snail’s pace, with the camera lingering far too long on actors who don’t deserve the camera angles that mostly consist of close-ups and closer-ups.
The pretentious attempt to give the story some heft by making these three girls’ dreary lives somehow a metaphor for the bombings on the radio soundtrack only underscores how little is going on in the foreground.
At least there a couple of actors playing soldiers and policemen, who once again prove that Israelis are among some of the hottest men on the planet. Of course, that’s not exactly the appeal for the target audience, who I assume are emo lesbians (or at least "just looking").
As it is, I would recommend that they -- and everyone else -- give this one a pass.