Jesus' Son (1999)
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I see that others here have problems with the title and the reference to Jesus. Not me. Aren't all of us (and esecially the world's "losers") just Christ figures waiting for redemption. It made me think of the line, the meek shall inherit the earth. The mystical touches, whether drug induced or not, were wonderful.
Low budget, sure, more films could do with the charm of this one, it tries to do something different, and I think it's a winner.
The film is closest to 'Drugstore Cowboy'- though parts such as the split-screen or the digital editing as F***head takes pills in the Emergency Room could have come from 'Requiem for a Dream'. The source stories have been extended and made more cohesive- as with the adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr's 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' by Uli Edel.
The film is wonderfully shot- a great scene is the drive-in/cemetery that plays 'Carnival of Souls' (though I thought I saw Samantha Morton caught in an almost Anton 'Depeche Mode' Corbijin style!); imagine 'Zabriskie Point' without the metaphysical masturbation...
The acting is uniformly great- Crudup & Morton are fantastic leads, while Denis Leary, Greg Germann, Holly Hunter are among the excellent supports. The short Dennis Hopper shaving scene is one of the greatest pieces of cinema I have seen in recent years; while Jack Black almost steals the film with his amusing "listen to my shoes". And Denis Johnson is great as hunting knife in eye guy. Oh and Will Patton pops up as 'John Smith'- still he was in 'The Postman', so not quite yet forgiven.
The soundtrack (chosen by Johnson) is great- Neil Young's 'Cowgirl in the Sand', Wilco's 'Airline to Heaven' & 'She's a Jar', 'Hang on Sloopy' and the great score. The highlight is Morton's gyrating dance to 'Oh Sweet Pea'- almost as great as that dance scene ripped off for 'Pulp Fiction' from Godard's 'Bande a Part'.Only quibble is- where was 'Heroin' by The Velvet Underground?
'Jesus' Son' is a touching, funny, and tender film that deserves to find an audience. There are too many great moments here- Hunter's arm waving in the air, Beverly Home, the Amish, the laundry scene, the ER scene, the rabbits roadtrip etc. Terribly depressing that mediocrity like 'Human Traffic' & 'Trainspotting' finds an audience here- but a film like this isn't allowed to (except at a few arthouse cinemas). Pity- and Alison MacLean's debut 'Crush' is also excellent; here's to possible adaptations of Denis Johnson's 'Already Dead' & 'The Name of the World'- by David Lynch and Paul Schrader respectively (hopefully)...Check out Johnson's books- as this film's use of voiceover stems right from them.
"Jesus' Son" is a picaresque road movie traveling through addictions, and manages to miss wallowing in the depression that made "Leaving Las Vegas" so unrelenting . Samantha Morton has incredible chemistry with Crudup who is fascinating to keep watching even as his character is a passive naif whom we really don't learn anything about.
My biggest complaint is that the cameos by recognizable and/or famous actors (Denis Leary, Jack Black of "High Fidelity," Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper) make the source material of short stories--which I assume are where the chapter headings come from-- too obvious; I would have preferred intriguing character actors or complete unknowns.
This is one of those "little movies" where you see a filmmaker in love with her tools of the medium, because it is both literate and explores the story visually, with judicious use of fantasies and hallucinations.
The Joe Henry musical score is wonderful, and the soundtrack selection of alt.country, including several Wilco songs, and offbeat rock and r & b classics are also commentaries on the action (amusingly the only Henry song used comes in over the radio that an annoyed Crudup turns off in order to hear the dialog).
(originally written 6/24/2000)
I was skeptical when I first heard about this film in Dec. '99 -- another one on drugs. Then when the trailer started, it grew on me. The image of framing an arc of a wreath above Crudup's head was the crowning influence that I must see this movie. In any case, Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton are quite an intense pairing.
The whole film seems like it's on it's own trip (pun intended). Crudup is FH, a rather lovable character. He is actually a shy person. Now and then he emits a sense of humor and it comes across so innocently -- you just can't blame him. He's trying to do right. Billy Crudup carried the picture from beginning to end. We see him and hear him narrating. The words uttered are eloquent. Crudup's clear enunciation adds to the fluidity of the text that we're hearing throughout the film.
Watching this film is rather like playing an album, you can go back and forth just by lifting the turntable needle. The vignettes are different tracks: on the road trip with Jack Black and the rabbits, and dealing with the knife in the head emergency case during a hospital shift (with Jack Black contributing his comic rhythm and delivering his lines equally fun to hear); shaving Dennis Hopper and interviewing him at the same time; interactions with Holly Hunter before and after AA meetings; staff routines at the senior home in Phoenix; repeatedly watching the Amish couple through the window glass; going to Denis Leary's house and the aftermath; of course, the interludes and episodes with Samantha Morton as Michelle. Humor is ever present.
Bravo to the script by three screenplay writers, based on Denis Johnson's short stories, and kudos to director Alison Mclean. She directed a film with such clarity and simple strokes. Billy Crudup would be the reason to see this film if not anything else, he exudes a halo of light about him -- his angelic face, even with his coy whiskers, still has a certain innocence about him, and according to FH, he does have ominous feelings in him of what to come. Jesus' son, he very well is. Enjoy this film, it's an excellent effort and production all round, including the soundtrack music and songs of the 70's.
Don't miss "Without Limits" 1998, another Billy Crudup must-see, if you haven't yet.
There are some interesting symbols: a man with Jesus' heart, a singing Menonite mermaid in a shower, drugs as an escape from the drug called life, etc. Not the average stuff of a mainstream movie which explains why this is an independent film.
We go along on an oddly comic journey during which we contemplate the price we pay for our dreams, explore the way we hide our deformities from the world, realize that we pretend to be normal because we want to be normal -- whatever normal is. We all want to find our place in a strange world where we have to consider the answers to the questions "Why did God make us?" and "Why did God make us the way we are?"
The solution to the riddles seems to be connecting with all our fellow riddlers, realizing that we'll understand someday what it all means.
This is a disturbing, funny, sad film -- not for everybody, but an interesting experience for people who don't mind thinking about what is being shown on the screen.
I like Billy Crudup, he is a good actor. Here he plays FH (short for F***-Head), and the moniker fits because as good as his intentions mostly are, he just has a knack for messing things up. He seems sincere, but almost a simpleton, and especially when we see him do some of the things he does. Like the time he hears a woman singing while in the shower, he goes into the home and lies down on the bed to listen to her. Until the husband comes in. Like, who would actually do something like that?
The other key character is Samantha Morton as Michelle and when FH meets her she is already an addict. Her addiction pulls him in too and, while they genuinely seem to care for each other, you can't really care for another person when you are addicted to drugs and wonder how you will support your habit.
The film has quite a number of other well-known actors, like Dennis Leary, Dennis Hopper, Jack Black, Holly Hunter, but mostly in brief parts. It is puzzling why the title is what it is. There are many funny, or just interesting, moments in the film but for me it did not add up to a worthwhile movie.
They try and say something specifically about the drug use, instead Jesus' Son tells a story about a person who just happens to take drugs.
Here, like life, reality is confused and they choices we make haunt us.
The main character Fuck Head is the ultimate loser. He takes drugs, only lives because his girlfriend saves his life, yet he lets her die in the same circumstance. He sees the sacred heart of Jesus on a man who tells him to go away. But ultimately he finds his own place in the world and sees beauty where others can't.
This is an art-house movie, and the reason that art house movies don't turn up in mainstream cinemas is because they have limited appeal. So maybe you will hate this movie or maybe you will recognise the loser in yourself in Fuck Head. I know I did. Sure I want to be a cross between Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt with a touch of Edward Norton, but I know I am more of a Fuck Head. If you are too, watch this movie.
These films' defining stamp is that they are told in an intentionally haphazard manner. Put simply, this makes a film that's difficult to watch. Both films are based on novels (I've read neither) and I can safely say this storytelling style befits the page more than it does the screen. It's supposed to make the experience more challenging for the audience, leaving them to try and piece this collection of strange occurrences into something that means anything. Let's just say I don't prefer this type of movie-going experience.
I didn't find anything particularly great about this film, nor did I find anything to be at all endearing. The result is an unsatisfying hour and a half of movie watching. Don't use drugs. Don't bother with "Jesus' Son".
Drug taking is not a spectator sport, and watching the semi-dazed FH wander wintry America in the early 1970s quickly becomes tiresome. We've seen this sort of material too often in independent American features for it to be fresh, and Maclean's fluid direction and ability with actors cannot disguise the episodic nature of the material. FH veers from boring to downright unlikeable, and I didn't care much about him or his potential redemption. Not helping was my failure to connect with the grotesque humour. There's only so many laughs you can wring from squashed animal foetuses and a man with a hunting knife stuck in his eye.
The lead actors were really annoying. I have known a lot of junkies. Very few of them look or act too much like the actors in this film. I found them to be completely unbelievable and absurd. This film tries WAY too hard to be hip. The dialog in many of the scenes between the male and female leads often dives deeply into cliché, psudo-hip dreck that may appeal to high school kids or 20 somethings who think heroin addicts in love are super cool. The delivery of said scenes makes Sid and Nancy come off looking like f***ing Hamlet. I was left with the impression that the book was better than the film.
This theme has been done to death in other more brilliant films. That's not to say that this film didn't have a few great visual moments and a few decent scenes courtesy of Jack Black and Dennis Hopper, but they were hardly enough to save this film from becoming a long, dreary Requiem For A Dream Light.
If you find shows like The Real World to be "really deep" or if you are the kind of person who thinks attractive actors/actresses = talent then this film should really do it for you.
If you have known any junkies personally then you know that their lives seldom if ever resemble the lives of the folks portrayed in this film and you will find it to be a complete fluff piece. You might even find it laughably unrealistic if the film wasn't so damn droll in general.
Save your bucks and the precious moments that will be robbed from your life by watching this crap-tastrophe and just rent Drugstore Cowboy, Permanent Midnight or Requiem For A Dream.
The myth of the innocent junkie is as tiresome and unrealistic as the myth of the hooker with the heart of gold. The quirkiness is such an effort that it's painful to watch. The "poetry" is laid on so thick it made me cringe. Go see Jim Carrey's latest and have a good laugh instead.
Based on Denis Johnson's novel, the movie is early John Irving meets DRUGSTORE COWBOY. FH (Billy Crudup), the zero hero, loves his partner in heroin addiction (Samantha Morton), but somehow keeps sidestepping happiness through a series of dropped balls--which involve a squashed handful of baby rabbits pulled from their dead mommy's guts, an ER patient with a knife in his eye, and (most painfully) a Lou Gehrig's patient abandoned by his wife. The worldview on display here was better articulated on the back bumper of a pick-up truck: Life's a Bitch and Then You Die. The epiphanies are lame after the joky horrors the movie stockpiles. And as FH, Billy Crudup has the looks of a movie star, and the stick-to-itiveness of an actor, but lacks the personality or the truthfulness to suffice as either one. He is, to put it harshly, no Matt Dillon. And for all Maclean's evident talent, and despite the lovely pass-through performances of Will Patton, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper and others, this movie plays like uncharming, creep-inducing Gus Van Sant: the insistence on Letterman-style ironic snickering at back-breaking tragedy comes to seem slightly nuts.
A strong supporting cast includes Samantha Morton as F*ckhead's wild/tragic junkie girlfriend (Her scenes with Crudup play like "Sid and Nancy" with a little more heart), Denis Leary in his best role yet as a gruff, shaky-handed Cowboy Junkie, Dennis Hopper as a weary recovering addict, Greg Germann (from "Ally McBeal")as a hopelessly "limited" doctor, and Holly Hunter, who in a small part rises above the tongue-in-cheek camp surrounding her character's tragic story. And the true stand-out is Jack Black, the hefty young character actor who gets the most laughs as a drugged-out hospital orderly. His scenes in the hospital with Crudup are some of the most frightening, funny and bizarre scenes to appear on film so far this year.
There is a rambling sensibility to this movie very much like FH's life. It does fit but it leaves the narrative disjointed. The story is very random. It has some hilarious moments like the emergency room although Jack Black does go overboard. It's his nature and he can't help it. Crudup is solid and fits the role snugly. Morton is amazing with her limited time. There are cool little supporting performances and unusual side trips. It has a similar theme and sense as 'Requiem for a Dream'. I could do with more Morton but this unusual little film is a winner.
A very different kind of film, with a cryptic story and main character, but it feels like a refreshment compared to many movies being made today.