BEFORE: Day 2 in Massachusetts, and Day 2 with Jake Gyllenhaal, who carries over from "Nightcrawler" and I seem to have hit a thematic chain about mourning and grief.
AFTER: This one's all about the awkwardness of dealing with family (or maybe it just seems like that because I'm dealing with my family right now...) or people who were almost family, or something like that. Joe is a young man living temporarily with his fiancee's parents while and after her funeral takes place, and gradually we learn more about who she was and how she died, and what took place the week before she died.
Thankfully, this is done more artistically then through the lazy use of flashbacks. See, there is a way to get information across about what has transpired before, without jumping around in time excessively. We also gradually learn when this is taking place - at first it seems like it could be set in the present (2002, when this was released) but with references to Vietnam and certain songs on the jukebox being only a couple of years old, it turns out this is set in 1973.
This makes sense, with most people in the film using land-line phones and old-style jukeboxes, but if you set something in small-town America, you might still see some of those things, especially if people are resistant to change. My parents still have a home phone, for example, and only use their (flip-style) cell phones when needed, but the younger generation uses the smart phones all the time, and tend to ditch home phone numbers.
Joe has to deal with wedding invitations that were sent that need to be retrieved, and for that he gets help from the local postmaster, who seems to have no problem with allowing him to tamper with the mail to get those invitations back - which I believe is a federal offense. But the postmaster is an attractive woman who has suffered a loss of their own, so you don't have to do much complicated math to figure out that they could help solve each other's problems.
She also works/co-owns the local bar, which is a complication because Joe's being roped into going into a commercial real estate partnership with his almost-father-in-law, and there's some kind of possible deal to land a big development deal in the town, but of course it just happens to involve the same block that this bar is on. What a coincidence. Can Joe find a way to free himself from the emotional weight of his late girlfriend and the pull imparted by her parents, in order to break out and start a new life somewhere else?
NITPICK POINT: It's a bit confusing to have prominent characters named "Joe" and "JoJo" in the same film, especially when JoJo goes by the shortened "Jo". And if these two characters have known each other for months, it's a bit strange that they would suddenly realize that their names are similar.
Also starring Dustin Hoffman (last seen in "Ishtar"), Susan Sarandon (last seen in "Zoolander 2"), Holly Hunter (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"), Ellen Pompeo (last seen in "Catch Me If You Can"), Dabney Coleman (last seen in "Melvin and Howard"), Alexia Landeau (last seen in "Riding in Cars With Boys"), Richard Fancy (last seen in "Sunset"), Mary Ellen Trainor (last seen in "Anywhere But Here"), Allan Corduner (last seen in "Woman in Gold"), Richard T. Jones (last seen in "Hot Pursuit"), Lenny Clarke (last seen in "Ted 2"), Phil Reeves.
RATING: 4 out of 10 yellow suit jackets