washingtonpost.com
Home   |   Register               Web Search: by Google
channel navigation




leftnav
Main Page 
Movies 
Music 
Restaurants 
Nightlife 
Museums/Galleries 
Theater/Dance 
Love Life 
In Store 
leftnav

       Style
       Comics
       Crosswords
       Horoscopes
       Books
       Travel
       Weather
       Traffic
       TV Listings

 
'Jesus' Son' Divinely Done

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 7, 2000

   


    'Jesus' Son' Billy Crudup leads a superb cast in "Jesus' Son." (Lions Gate)
Q: What kind of actor does it take to pull off a line like, "Ah, this sudden crispness, this beautiful chill, the tang of everything stabbing me!" and not make it sound as if he's reading from the Rod McKuen songbook?

A: A very, very brave one.

Billy Crudup is such an actor. As the hero of Alison Maclean's "Jesus' Son," a lyrical hallucination of a film about a junkie's voyage from damnation to self-discovery, Crudup gives a performance that is by turns scary, heartbreaking, grotesque and funny as hell. In Elizabeth Cuthrell, David Urrutia and Oren Moverman's poetic adaptation of Denis Johnson's acclaimed collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, Crudup stars as a man known only by a vulgar nickname we'll euphemistically call "Frickhead."

As the tale begins, FH is a sweet-natured twentysomething slacker whose worst vices are cigarettes and beer. Actually, that's not true – when "Jesus' Son" starts, FH, who is also the movie's unreliable narrator, has already fallen off the wagon, but just a few minutes into his winding oral history he stops, backtracks, then starts again (several times in fact) before finding his rhythm.

His head turned by a pretty heroin addict named Michelle (Samantha Morton), it doesn't take FH long to realize he likes the high, too. Soon, the two are shacking and shooting up in a series of grimy fleabags. They fight, they make up, she saves him from an overdose and gets pregnant. Through it all, FH drifts past a succession of eccentric but totally believable social outcasts: Wayne (Denis Leary), a divorced dope fiend and alcoholic who harvests his own home for scrap metal; Georgie (Jack Black), a pill-popping hospital orderly; Bill (Dennis Hopper), a recovering drunk with two rather gruesome bullet holes in his head; and Mira (Holly Hunter), a partially paralyzed woman he meets at an AA meeting.

Filled with beautiful imagery bordering on the surreal – a naked woman gliding through the sky on some sort of parasail, a fully conscious man with a hunting knife sticking out of his eye socket, a litter of premature rabbits delivered in the middle of a highway, a Mennonite couple in the Arizona desert – "Jesus' Son" is neither a preachy tale of rehab nor a harrowing drug drama, although its voice is at times inflected with elements of each.

More than anything, "Jesus' Son" (which takes its name from a line in Lou Reed's song, "Heroin") is a story of spiritual awakening and the often serendipitous, if not downright blessed, way many of us arrive at a sense of belonging. Guided by director Maclean's taste for the wry, her eye for finding beauty in squalor and her allergic reaction to all things sentimental – and with its rock-solid cast of actor's actors – "Jesus' Son" manages to carry off the corniest thing imaginable: turning a cynic into a believer.

JESUS' SON (R, 110 minutes) – Contains obscenity, sex, nudity, drug use and surreal physical injury.

 

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


Search Entertainment


Optional Keyword

powered by citysearch.com
More Search Options
Related Item
"Jesus' Son"
showtimes and details


washingtonpost.com
Home   |   Register               Web Search: by Google
channel navigation