The Last Rites of Joe May

Dir. Joe Maggio (2011 107 min)

where to watch
Slideshow  |  Trailer

Showcasing a tour-de-force performance from veteran Dennis Farina, THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY chronicles the final days of an aging, short money hustler clinging to the belief that he’s one scam away from the glorious destiny he’s always deserved. Now in his sixties, his health failing and resources dwindling, Joe is presented with one last shot at redemption in the eyes of a community that’s all but left him for dead.

Long Synopsis:

Despite all evidence to the contrary, aging short-money hustler Joe May (Dennis Farina) always believed he had a glorious future ahead of him. Now in his sixties, Joe is released from the hospital after a long battle with pneumonia and forced to confront the harsh reality of his legacy: everyone he knew had assumed he was dead, and life had gone on around him without missing a beat. Returning to his old neighborhood in Chicago’s “Patch” district, he finds his car gone, all his worldly possessions pawned by his landlord, and the apartment he’s lived in his entire adult life rented out to a single mother named Jenny and her eight year-old daughter Angelina . After a rough night’s sleep outdoors, Joe reluctantly moves in with the new tenants of his home – at least until he is able to get back on his feet.

Even as Joe doggedly pursues his comeback, he finds the odds stacked drastically against him. He gets no respect from his old supplier, his best friend and partner in crime has moved into an assisted living facility, and even Joe’s prized pigeon coops have fallen into disrepair. Throughout this ordeal, Joe’s one lifeline is his burgeoning friendship with his co-tenants. So when things turn ugly between Jenny and her boyfriend – a crooked detective with a penchant for domestic violence – Joe is determined to take a stand for his unlikely new family, and perhaps take one last shot at redefining his legacy.



I can’t say specifically what inspired THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY, but that being said, there are three things I know for sure.

First, I began thinking somewhat vaguely about a Joe May kind of character shortly after breaking up with a girl who, in one especially painful moment of the whole extrication process, announced quite coolly and confidently that I would very likely die a broken and lonely old man. This was nearly twenty years prior to writing the screenplay for THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY, but her words stuck with me, imbedded somewhere in my prefrontal cortex, and over the years I would have many painful imaginings about how her awful prophecy might one day come true, quite a few of which made it onto the screen in Joe’s words and deeds.

I am also a big Vittorio De Sica fan and I began writing more specific notes for THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY shortly after seeing UMBERTO D for the first time. I’d already made three feature films, but was struggling mightily to pay the rent and keep myself fed. The hero of De Sica’s film had worked hard his entire life and now, in his retirement, when all he wanted was a warm place to sleep, a little food for himself and his dog, and perhaps a kind word now and then from an old acquaintance – somehow, even this was too much to ask for. During long bouts of self-pity, locked away in my apartment, skillfully avoiding the landlord, I found myself thinking of poor Umberto and how, like him, I seemed thoroughly ill-equipped to survive, let alone succeed.

Finally, and at the risk of confessing too much publicly, there is quite a lot of my maternal grandfather and his sons in Joe May. He exhibits the endless optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, the swagger, a few sartorial touches, and most importantly the strict adherence to a code of conduct which, just a generation ago, outlined in precise terms what it meant to be a man. You always pay your debts. You never let anyone know when you’re down and out and no matter how bad things get you keep your shoes shined, your pants pressed and your hair trimmed. If you can’t afford to leave a tip, don’t go into the bar. You wait your turn, with patience and fortitude, because better days will come, eventually. Joe’s trouble isn’t that he fails to live up to this code, it’s that the world has changed to such a degree that in obeying these rules Joe is, in a sense, holding devalued currency. In this way I suppose THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY is an effort to redeem those men and their ideals, flawed though they may be. And Joe May is nothing if not flawed. I hope that you love him anyway.




Farina most recently appeared on the big screen in the critically acclaimed feature BOTTLE SHOCK alongside Alan Rickman, Chris Pine and Bill Pullman and as Cameron Diaz’ boss in the Fox comedy feature WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, directed by Tom Vaughn. He is currently shooting the HBO series “Luck” opposite Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. The series was created by David Milch (“Deadwood”) and the pilot was directed by Michael Mann, who is executive producing alongside Milch.

Farina is well remembered for his roles in memorable features such as Steven Soderbergh’s OUT OF SIGHT, the sly and sexy crime caper in which he played Marshall Sisco, the retired lawman father of Jennifer Lopez’s character. This was Farina’s second outing in an
Elmore Leonard best seller adaptation for Jersey Films, the previous one being GET SHORTY, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and co-starring John Travolta, Rene Russo and Gene Hackman. Farina received an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male for his performance as Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni.

One of the most recognized character actors of our time, Farina has played everything from an army colonel in Steven Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, to a Jewish diamond merchant opposite Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro in the darkly comedic crime drama SNATCH directed by Guy Ritchie, to a seat belt challenged hit man in Touchstone’s comedy BIG TROUBLE directed by his GET SHORTY director Barry Sonnenfeld, to an Irish mob boss in YOU KILL ME opposite Sir Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni and Luke Wilson, to a wise-cracking news anchor with outrageous dating advice in SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK directed by Ed Burns. He starred opposite Bette Midler in THAT OLD FEELING and played one of the most feared (and loved) gangsters of all time, Jimmy Serrano, in Martin Brest’s action-comedy MIDNIGHT RUN with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin. Some of Farina’s other big screen credits include REINDEER GAMES, PAPARAZZI, THE MOD SQUAD, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, STRIKING DISTANCE, ANOTHER STAKEOUT, and the Michael Mann films MANHUNTER and THIEF, the latter of which was Farina’s feature film debut.

On the small screen, Farina is widely recognized for his recent portrayal of Detective Joe Fontana on NBC’s epic series “Law and Order.” His other television series credits include NBC’s “In Laws,” CBS’s critically acclaimed “Buddy Faro,” created by Mark Frost (“Twin Peaks”), and NBC’s “Crime Story,” created by long-time collaborator Michael Mann. Farina starred in HBO’s miniseries, “Empire Falls,” directed by Fred Schepisi, which also starred Helen Hunt, Ed Harris, Paul Newman and Robin Wright Penn and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Mini-Series. He also appeared in the Emmy-nominated “The Drug Wars: Columbia.”

A veteran of the Chicago theater, Farina has appeared in Joseph Mantegna’s Bleacher Bums, A Prayer For My Daughter, directed by John Malkovich, A Class Three Trial in Yokohama directed by Donald Finn, The Time of Your Life directed by Donald Moffat, Heat directed by Roberta Custer, Streamers directed by Terry Kinney, Tracers directed by Gary Sinise (a JosephJefferson Award Winner for Best Ensemble) and others.


Jamie Anne Allman is an actress and occasional singer. At a very early age, Allman dreamed of being an actress. Pursuing her childhood dream, Allman moved from small town Kansas to Los Angeles. In a very short time, she has already proved herself to be a very powerful and versatile young actress. Allman has been acclaimed for both dramatic and comedic work in projects ranging from period to contemporary films, and network television to less publicized indie films. She achieved recognition for her film debut in THE NOTEBOOK starring Ryan Gosling and many television appearances including recurring on “The Shield,” “CSI,” and “The Closer” which are among just a few of her credits.

This spring, Jamie will be in a supporting role on AMC’s long-awaited murder mystery “The Killing,” which will get a two hour premiere on April 3, 2011. Off camera, Allman is known for her quirky sense of humor and familial devotion. In 2006, she married actor Marshall Allman and they happily reside in Los Angeles.


Ian Barford has been a Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member since 2007. This past summer Mr. Barford originated the role of Dr. Khassan Baiev in The Oath at the Weston Playhouse, based on Dr. Baiev’s autobiography of the same name. Credits at Steppenwolf include: Endgame, Up, Art, August: Osage County (also Broadway and London’s National Theatre), The Crucible, Betrayal, Love Song, Lost Land, Three Days of Rain, The Berlin Circle, The Libertine, As I Lay Dying, Time of My Life, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, and others. Additional Chicago credits include: All the Rage and Design for Living (Goodman Theatre); Othello (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); and Mad Forest (Remains Theatre). In Los Angeles: The Weir, God’s Man in Texas and Take Me Out (Geffen Playhouse); and Dead End (Ahmanson). Film and TV credits include: ROAD TO PERDITION, 13 GOING ON 30, “The Beast,” “Medium,” “Numbers,” “Without a Trace,” “Zoey 101” and many others.


Meredith Droeger began performing at the age of six and has several film, television and theatre credits. She played the role of Megan Crowley in the feature film EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell. Other film credits include WEDNESDAY’S CHILD, LAC DU FLAMBEAU, and TRAIN TOWN (winner of Best Narrative Short in the Chicago Film Festival). She made her theatre stage debut with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in Macbeth and had a co-star appearance on “The Beast” starring Patrick Swayze. In addition, Meredith has dozens of commercial and voiceover credits. Meredith was born and raised in Chicago and loves to play basketball, tennis and go bike riding. Her best friend is her older sister Abigail.


Best known for his film roles in classic cult comedies such as OFFICE SPACE, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY And DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, Gary Cole is a veteran of both the screen and the stage. As an ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theater Company, Cole’s theater credits include August: Osage County, Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Speed the Plow, American Buffalo, and Flyovers and Balm in Gilead. Additional film credits include: AMERICAN PASTIME, BREACH, THE RING 2, CRAZY IN LOVE, WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!, I SPY, ONE HOUR PHOTO, THE GIFT, A SIMPLE PLAN, KISS THE SKY, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE and Clint Eastwood’s IN THE LINE OF FIRE. Television credits include: “Midnight Caller,” “American Gothic,” “The West Wing,” “Arrested Development,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Chuck,” “The Cleaner,” “Entourage,” “Numb3rs,” “The Good Wife” and “The Good Guys.”


Joe Maggio is the award-winning writer/director of five and a half feature films: VIRGIL BLISS (2001); MILK + HONEY (2003); PAPER COVERS ROCK (2008); EUPHORIA (2009); BITTER FEAST (2010) and THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY (2011). His work has screened widely at film festivals including Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, LAFF, Tribeca, Seattle and Chicago. In 2002 he was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards and his films have been distributed domestically and internationally through First Run Features, Wellspring/Weinstein Co., IFC Films and MPI Media. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.


After working on college classmate John Singleton’s Boyz N’ the Hood, Straus sold hisoriginal screenplay THE CLOWN PRINCE to Sony Pictures. At 23, he was attached to direct thefilm which had a flickering greenlight, but never quite got made. When the studio finally put theproject in turnaround, Bill took his earnings and spent eighteen months travelling through thethird world with a backpack.

After a few years back home in Brooklyn, New York, Straus decided to return to USC’sPeter Stark Producing Program to get his Master’s degree. Straus’ summer internship at NewLine Cinema turned into a story department position and he eventually worked his way up to the executive ranks. After leaving the studio, Straus set up his own shingle with a first-look dealat Circle of Confusion. His first film, THE MAN, starring Sam Jackson and Eugene Levy, wasreleased in September 2005. He also produced WEAPONS (Nick Cannon, Paul Dano) and RED (Brian Cox), Sundance Film Festival selections in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Straus has a number of other projects in various stages of packaging and development. Chief among them is STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, a biopic of NWA at New Line.

Bill lives in New York with his wife Noriko and his 2-year-old daughter Junie.


Stephanie Striegel, a native of Hollywood, California began her career working with Tim Burton’s production company and on the films, ED WOOD and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. In 1994, Stephanie joined TriStar Pictures where she served as Executive Assistant to Stacey Snider (who is now CEO of DreamWorks), working on projects that included JERRY MCGUIRE, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, JUMANJI, and LEGENDS OF THE FALL.

A year later she was offered a position at New Line Cinema working in development for Lynn Harris, under Michael De Luca, and later Toby Emmerich. She worked on BOOGIE NIGHTS, LIVING OUT LOUD, BLOW, and BLADE. While Story Editor she also served as an executive producer on the award winning boxing film, PRICE OF GLORY, starring Jimmy Smits. Other projects she oversaw as a Production Executive include HOW TO DEAL, starring Mandy Moore, and THE NUMBER 23, starring Jim Carrey.

At the end of 2002, Striegel joined Spyglass Entertainment as Vice President of Production reporting directly to President, Jonathan Glickman. She immediately went into production on Universal Studios’ CONNIE AND CARLA, written by and starring Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, and David Duchovney. In addition, she oversaw a slate of projects that included