Projections - Movie Reviews

Jesus' Son Jesus' Son

Billy Crudup and Smantha Morton rise with poignant performances during the undercurrent of the early 70's drug subculture in Jesus' Son.  With distinctive photography of predominantly Midwest locales underlining this laid back, yet chaotic time period.

Adapted from a compilation of short stories by Denis Johnson, Crudup's "FH", a vulgar nickname for botching up what he tries to accomplish, isn't that different from his watchable turn as an aspiring politician in Waking The Dead.  Here his character is more appealing than more recent lead performances that involve getting messed up.  In 1971 FH is seen hitching a ride that will be a part of an accident, but the sweet, mischievous fellow knows he will come out of it intact.

The muted narrative scripted by three writers heads back to 1968 to chronicle FH's relationship with Morton's Michelle, a sensual, quicksilver heroin addict.  She lures him into junkie behavior, through never to her borderline excessiveness.  The strung out mode of hallucinatory storytelling is often funny with FH's wry voice-overs initiating spontaneity as Maclean is determined to arrest the viewer with no exposition for the drug use and sex that is forthcoming.  Though the flashback techniques detract from the overall power of Jesus' Son, FH's pal (Denis Leary) nearing death from a bad dose during which FH's similar harsh plight has the benefit of Michelle's attention.  Also, when FH is a temp working in a hospital emergency room, a scene with a knife, though quite revolting, is hilarious, as a patient seeks assistance with odd results in the medical staff's approach, especially by a rotund crazed orderly acted sharply by Jack Black (High Fidelity).

Later the present is met, with FH rescuing an infant, unusual in the fact that his girlfriend just had an abortion in Chicago and has broken up with him.  The committed FH is on a path south of the border to find Michelle, but his destination through rehabilitation into work at a Phoenix convalescent home is a redeeming payoff, never predicated with sentimental overtones.

Along with Leary as a wacky divorcee' and Black's buddy (weirdly witty Holly Hunter) adds an invigorating, if eccentric touch to a friendly AA patient.

But the director gracefully alternates between the risible and a genuine pathos, accentuating sleazy motels and shady barrooms as FH struggles to stay afloat in the storminess he creates.  And Crudup's innocence and candor turns out to be highly credible with the volatile Morton whose Michelle has the attitude and drive that can take him down.  While not tightly edited, Jesus' Son still is enlightening, evocative, and blessed with the talents of actors who are finding their niche in independent film.

Jesus' Son

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