Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jesus' Son

Originally Written and Posted at on 3/6/04 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Based on Denis Johnson's collection of short stories, Jesus' Son is the story of a 1970s heroin addict who tries to do good only continually mess things up as he wound encounter tragedy and redemption. Directed by Alison Maclean and screenplay by Oren Moverman, David Urritia, and Elizabeth Cuthrell, the film explores a young man trying to deal with addiction as well as doing what is right. Starring Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Jack Black, John Ventimiglia, Denis Leary, Will Patton, Holly Hunter, and Dennis Hopper. Jesus' Son is an extraordinary film from Alison Maclean.

A young drifter named FH aka Fuckhead (Billy Crudup) is hitchhiking as he hopes to return to Iowa to meet his girlfriend Michelle (Samantha Morton). After a horrifying car accident that he was apart of, FH looks back at his life where he recalls the moment he meets Michelle three years earlier at a party held by a guy named McInnes (John Ventimiglia) as the two later have another encounter where FH's friends Jack (Mark Webber) and Dundun (Michael Shannon) watch something horrifying happen. FH meets Michelle again a year later as the two start a tumultuous relationship as they would become full-blown heroin addicts that would have its wandering moods as it would often include FH's incompetence.

With Michelle gone, FH reaches out to fellow addict Wayne (Denis Leary) where the two make money in destroying an abandoned home and steal some cables where they both earn a good payday. The success allows FH to get back with Michelle though she presents some startling news that would prompt him to try and clean up. Working with another addict in Georgie (Jack Black) as an night-shift orderly in a hospital, the two delve into several hijinks as a doctor (Greg Germann) examines a patient with a knife in his eye where Georgie would make things worse. The two go on a road trip where they would kill a pregnant bunny as they tried to take care of the baby bunnies only for FH to screw things up as usual.

After another breakup with Michelle who leaves him to work in Mexico with a guy named John Smith (Will Patton), FH would have a strange encounter with a snakeskin-jacket man (Alan Davidson) as he tries to deal with his own relapsing drug addiction. After another reunion with Michelle that doesn't go well, FH eventually goes to rehab as he meets with a former addict named Bill (Dennis Hopper) whose story would help FH changes his life. After moving to Phoenix, he meets a former alcoholic named Mira (Holly Hunter) and works at nursing home while being entranced by a singer (Rebecca Kimball). With this new life, FH wonders about where he is going with this new life.

What makes Jesus' Son such an interesting film is in Alison Maclean's direction. While the film's script at times is hard to follow with its flashbacks and varied subplots, MacLean and the screenwriters make sure the story is appealing in its offbeat structure and tone. Even by adding elements of black comedy and drama, the film doesn't lose itself in it's pacing. In the more harrowing scenes of hallucinations, MacLean brings up the surreal tone of drug addiction at its darkest and campy. Even the film's look by cinematographer Adam Kimmel is amazingly captured in the film's three-act structure. From its blue look early on to the more colorful, hazy tone in the second to a more cleaner, enlightened tone in its final act. Even the film's music with an original score from Joe Henry as well as a wide mix of music from the 70s ranging from rock, pop, soul, and country to enhance the gritty, natural tone of the film.

The film's cast is extraordinary from its group of smaller roles played by Mark Webber, Michael Shannon, Alan Davidson, John Ventimiglia, and Greg Germann to its veterans like Dennis Hopper, Will Patton, and Holly Hunter in their small but respective roles that are performed wonderfully. Standing out in the supporting cast easily is Jack Black who delivers a hilarious, brash performance as Georgie by giving the film some much-needed comic relief. Denis Leary also provides a funny performance as Wayne as he comes out of the film like a drunk by beating people up and fucking things up as possible in one of Leary's best performances.

Samantha Morton is astonishing as Michelle by portraying a beautiful addict who can be unlikable at times yet for the British actress, Morton provides a sense of sexiness and sympathy in her troubled performance as an addict. Billy Crudup is amazing as the film's protagonist FH by being charming and loveable in his role despite being a total fuck-up. Crudup carries the film with ease and strong dramatic moments without being too vulnerable or too stupid. Crudup gives one of his best performances of his career, particularly as the film's narrator.

Jesus' Son is an entrancing yet harrowing film from Alison Maclean that features terrific performances from Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton. Along with a great supporting cast that includes Jack Black and Denis Leary, it's a film that explores the dark world of drug addiction as well as a man yearning to find redemption. Notably as it revolves a guy who tries not to live up to his namesake as incompetent fuck-up. In the end, Jesus' Son is a powerful drama from Alison Maclean.

(C) thevoid99 2012

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