Jesus' Son

Directed by Alison Maclean
Starring: Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Denis Leary, Jack Black, Will Patton, Greg Germann, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper.
MPAA Rating: R for graphic drug use, strong language, sexuality and some violent images.

Review by Matt Heffernan
July 11, 2000

When a film comes out with the title Jesus' Son, one would expect some furor within the religious community. Certainly, once they hear that the main character is a drug addict known only as "Fuckhead" that has Christ-like visions, they'll be marching in the streets. Somehow, that hasn't happened. It is most likely that the film hasn't had enough publicity, but despite that, I'm going to review it.

Set in the early 1970s, this film stars Billy Crudup as a wandering soul who at least believes he is psychic and has some sort of heightened spiritual connection to God. In episodic fashion, the film follows him from place to place, as his life briefly comes in contact with several different people.

His only sustained relationship is with Michelle (Samantha Morton), his girlfriend. She's the one who added heroin to his repertoire of substances. The film starts with him looking for her after she has run off with another man (Will Patton), but then flashes back to when they first met. From there, his aforementioned journey begins.

You could call Jesus' Son a road movie, except that very little time is actually spent on the road. Trust me, though, the genre fits. Like any good road movie, this one has several interesting characters along the way, played by the likes of Denis Leary, Jack Black, Dennis Hopper, and eventually Holly Hunter, who helps our hero recover from the rest of the film.

The original book by Denis Johnson was presented as a collection of stories, and the film uses title cards to demarcate the vignettes. The way the film is structured, however, this seems almost unnecessary, since the narrative seems to segue well enough on its own. I wouldn't exactly call it cohesive, either. In fact, I'm not sure what I'd call it. Reviewing a film like this is quite difficult. All I know is that it had an interesting vision, some fine acting, and a very dark sense of humor that amused me, but would probably turn most people off. In short, I liked it, but I don't know what to make of it.

Would you like it? Well, if you laughed all through Fight Club, as I did, then there may be a good chance. If you find the title alone blasphemous, then you should probably avoid it. In fact, I'm surprised you made it to the end of this review.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Jesus' Son (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Jesus' Son, stories by Denis Johnson -- Paperback
Jesus' Son: Original Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan