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The Ballad of Little Jo

4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Starring Suzy Amis. Disgraced, a 19th century society girl journey's west disguised as a man. Inspired by a true story. Year: 124 Director: Maggie Greenwald Starring: Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian Mckellen

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen, David Chung, Heather Graham
  • Directors: Maggie Greenwald
  • Writers: Maggie Greenwald
  • Producers: Anne Dillon, Brenda Goodman, Fred Berner, Ira Deutchman, John Sloss
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 2, 2003
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000A02YO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,018 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Ballad of Little Jo" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By dsrussell VINE VOICE on July 25, 2000
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
For a movie that I wasn't prepared to like, this little, unknown `ballad' turned into a treasure-trove of surprises. Well acted throughout, "The Ballad of Little Jo" hits the mark at almost every turn. The director and writer, Maggie Greenwald, brought a sense of stark realism to the period, much like Robert Altman brought to his classic "McCabe and Mrs. Miller". This was especially true in the mining camp scenes.
This is a story of a young woman trying to make it on her own as she travels west after an affair has brought her shame and banishment. The twist, of course, is that the only way she can survive and scratch an existence is by hiding herself as a man (actually, a boy). The classic beauty of Suzy Amis requires one to stretch his or her imagination quite a bit in order for this movie to work. For instance, did I, for even one second, think she looked like a man? Not on your life, buster! How about as a young lad? Well, not really. So did it work? A very surprising YES! And the credit has to go to Ms. Amis--she was wonderful in this film--as well as the director.
The movie travels at a somewhat pedestrian pace, however, it is never dull and carries a wealth of scenes that brings out a pure and simple honesty, which is rare in filmmaking. After viewing this film, I wished that they had spent a little more time showing Josephine the woman, but because of time constraints (the film was fairly long as is), most of her past was shown only in quick flashbacks. Between 1 and 10, "The Ballad of Little Jo" deserves a solid 8. This is one film I know I'll enjoy over and over again. People, do yourself a favor and rent or buy this film. I think you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I.
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Format: VHS Tape
Before watching this, do not make the mistake of lumping this film in with silly cross dressing comedies like "Tootsie" and "Mrs. Doubtfire." While based on a true story, director Greenwald sidesteps many western (and Hollywood) conventions to bring one of the best westerns of the 1990's.
Suzy Amis plays Jo, a woman who is a little too trusting of some bad men. After escaping to the west and leaving her born out of wedlock son behind, she is almost raped by two soldiers. To hide from them, she wears men's clothing and scars her face, eventually using her new facade to get what she needs in the west to survive. Ian McKellen plays a woman hater who takes her in, believing she is a young man. She eventually befriends Bo Hopkins, who has his best role in years, and starts a sheep ranch. She falls in love with a Chinese man she was forced to hire as her cook, and must eventually do battle with a cattle comglomerate trying to get a foothold and driving the sheep ranchers out.
Amis resembles Eric Stoltz in her scenes as a man, and is totally believable. McKellan and Rene Auberjonois have small but pivotal roles as older father figures who Amis trusts, but eventually turn on her. Bo Hopkins is great as the neighbor Amis tolerates, befriends, and tolerates. David Chung plays the Chinese man nicknamed Tin Man as an ailing opium addicted flawed man. He looks perfect for the part, life scars and all. Heather Graham also has a small part as Amis' paramour, and does her best with it.
The most surprising aspects of this film is what the film is not. There are no cute "Yentl" scenes, where Amis falls in love with a man as a man. The cattle company war, a standard western plot point, never overwhelms the story, or comes to a trite conclusion.
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Format: VHS Tape
Easily one of the best movies I have ever seen, hands down. A "sleeper", that I caught by accident late one night as I was channel surfing, yawning and stretching for bed. Within the first few minutes I was rivetted. The film features excellence at every possible level, from camera work, casting, script,set, acting and of course direction. This story in the wrong hands would have been a complete farce, but here we are treated to a story that is so believable (don't forget, it is based on a true story!) and gripping I still don't know how it is not a huge cult classic at the very least! This woman's life-story is told with dignity, patience and a fearless honesty that few movies can approach. The ending is particularly wonderful as are the love scenes between Little Jo and her Chinese lover. Most of my friends consider me a bit of a "foreign film snob", truth is I just dislike "Hollywood" movies and have always felt that there has for years always been so many wonderful movies made in other countries that we have little access too! In my opinion most of the time these films make US films look ridiculous. However, this film, Maggie Greenwald et al restored my faith in the possibility that good movies, good ART could be made in the United States of America.
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Format: VHS Tape
The western had long been the last bastion of male supremacy for Hollywood. With THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO, director Maggie Greenwald presents the same hostile west that bedeviled John Wayne decades ago, but this time the protagnist is a woman named Josephine (Suzy Amis), who enters the movie as a well-to-do eastern lady who has the bad fortune to have an illegitimate baby. Her uncaring family casts her out, and Little Jo has no choice but to head west where she is subject to near rape. To protect herself, she disguises herself as a man. Now this may sound as if the film could easily turn into something as ludicrous as a western TOOTSIE, but it does not. Instead, Amis is totally convincing as a man who faces the same problems as if she were truly a man. Amis meets several men (Ian McKellen and Rene Auberjonois) who at first help her, then turn on her. She meets a Chinese man (David Chung), with whom she establishes first a friendly relation, then a physical one. By the film's end, Amis has proved that the gender of a settler is less important in securing her place in the west than is the determination that she shows. Heather Grahame does well in a secondary role, and newcomer Irina Passmoore also shines as two women, who in contrast to Little Jo, further stamp her as the first of the politically correct cowgirls.
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