Little Joe is a low-budget sci-fi drama about a laboratory-grown, genetically modified flower whose scent can lift the mood of the owner and make them feel “happy”. Named after the scientist’s son, “Little Joe” is created to be asexual but the plant has a breeding or fertilising instinct and so it begins to modify human thoughts and actions via the inhalation of its pollen to further its reproductive agenda. Little Joe sounds promising, and it seems to be written and directed by someone who’s watched Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Phase IV. These classics would be a good starting point for a contemporary science fiction movie but instead of emulating them, we have a very slow, almost pointless plot that dawdles and meanders around potentially interesting ideas without ever exciting or enthralling the audience.
The tagline on the poster and physical media artwork varies between “Happiness Is A Business” and “Evil Is Grown Here” which are both extremely misleading. These taglines make it seem as though there’s a satirical or horror element to this film but what the actual product contains is boredom and annoyance. Is the story about parenting, playing god, manufacturing and taking drugs, suppressing gender, or mother nature? Well, God only knows. Actually, I don’t think the movie is intended to be about anything. It seems that the filmmakers had access to some lab coats and hairspray and so they began filming any old bollocks. The fact that a plant named “Little Joe” already exists (a dwarf version of the Joe Pye weed) it means that the writers did no research whatsoever or the characters have no idea what they’re doing despite working in the botanical sector!
The plant is supposed to make people act differently but nobody remembered to tell the bloody actors. Aside from the dog, the cast are identical before and after inhaling the pollen, which renders the Body Snatchers-esque plot redundant. Ben Whishaw who was brilliant in A Very English Scandal and The Personal History Of David Copperfield delivers a forgettable performance, as does Emily Beecham and Kit Connor (of Rocketman fame). The plot is so mundane that you instead begin to notice insignificant things such as skin blemishes. In certain scenes, you want to break through the screen Last Action Hero-style and hand Beecham’s character some lip salve.
Recommended by the likes of Mark Kermode and with a Cannes Film Festival crest conspicuously plastered over the poster, this is undoubtedly a film for the upper-middle-class hipster crowd. Produced by Arte, BBC, and BFI, Little Joe has “pompous” written all over it. This is a movie that is style over substance as well as being a complete waste of time and money; both in terms of production and consumption. I’ve read reviews calling Little Joe “creepy” but this is anything but. This flick is devoid of any emotion at all which is ironic given the premise of a mood-altering plant. Writer-director, member of A.M.P.A.S., and descendant of nepotism Jessica Hausner is responsible for this shite, and maybe her pedigree is the reason she and her film are so over-hyped and overrated.
One of the worst aspects of the movie is the appalling score. There’s an incessant and irritating, high-pitch squeal making the audience feel like they’ve got tinnitus, and the intermittent yelping and banging on a monkey drum sounds like it’s occurring in the scene itself. These sounds crop-up randomly throughout the film, whether the plant in there or not and whether the scene warrants a racket. I’m not sure whether a score can be nominated for a Razzie but this is a definite contender. In addition to this, the camera, in a couple of scenes, begins to slowly wander forward, past the actors and into the blank background for no reason whatsoever! Maybe the camera-person has literally fallen asleep due to the dullness of the scene.
Little Joe is a pretentious, dull as plant-pot water, sci-fi film with absolutely nothing to say. The filmmakers seem more concerned with the pointless, postmodern, ’70s styling of the hair and wardrobe than the storytelling. There’s no message, no metaphors, and more importantly; no atmosphere or thrills. Given the plot, this film should be heaving with paranoia but instead it’s chock-full of tedium. I have no problem with a brooding and slow-building pace but Little Joe builds-up to fuck-all and goes nowhere from there.