Running across the intriguing character one day in a diner, Mitchell decides to feature Gould in his Profiles series and begins to spend a significant amount of time with him, treating him to lunch, visiting an art gallery with him, joining him at a poetry reading (where Gould's contribution is, "In winter I'm a Buddhist; in summer I'm a nudist!") and generally making a scene wherever they go.
Once the piece runs, Gould experiences a legitimacy he never had before and suddenly finds himself the center of attention of beautiful women, the recipient of fan mail that often includes cash and the pet project of an anonymous philanthropist. Normally this is the end of the relationship for Mitchell, but Gould has other ideas, incessantly dropping by the office and even calling his home in the middle of the night. Mitchell finds himself torn between a personal obligation to the man and the fact that Gould really is just subject matter to him. Eventually Mitchell discovers his down-on-his-luck buddy has a shameful secret, straining their relationship even further.
Holm disappears in his role as Gould. Stripping away personal dignity--both emotionally and physically--Holm's characterization of the character is a crazy cross between Santa Claus and a raving lunatic, hilariously entertaining one moment and sadly somber the next.
That's not to take anything away from Tucci's performance as a Southern man who feels more at home in the Big Apple than he ever did, well, at home. Playing a man who writes much more fluently than he speaks, Tucci's soulful eyes reveal his character's inner turmoil.
But "Joe Gould's Secret" really has three leading characters, the third being the city of New York. Tucci, also serving as director and producer on the film, has intricately recreated the 1940s settings, especially the considerable number of scenes shot outside on the streets. The setting gives birth to the characters, and without it, there would be no Joe Gould. Starring Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci. Directed by Stanley Tucci. Written by Howard A. Rodman. Produced by Beth Alexander, Stanley Tucci and Charles Weinstock. A USA release. Drama. Rated R for some language and brief nudity. Running time: 107 min.