A scene from 'Jesus' Son'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 108 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, July 7, 2000
Directed by Alison Maclean

Starring Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Denis Leary, Jack Black, Will Patton, Dennis Hopper & Holly Hunter


Unengaging flatness of this film make it a bad candidate for TV transition, but if you have a jones for any of the actors, it might be worth renting. They all do a fine job.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 09/19/2000


 LINKS for this film
Official site
at Internet Movie Database
Superb Crudup, Morton travel familiar junkie territory in 'Jesus' Son'

By Rob Blackwelder

Another scruffy, festival circuit flick about lovable, good-looking junkies, "Jesus' Son" gets by on a pair of commendably manic performances from rising stars Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton, but otherwise plots a rambling pre-destined course through blissful and heinous heroin binges, petty larceny and overdose deaths on its way to a stupor-emerging, halcyon rehab finale.

The versatile Crudup ("Waking the Dead," "The Hi-Lo Country") gives good druggie voice-over as an aimless '70s loser known only as F***head (or FH for short), who becomes addicted to H after falling for a beautiful, bedraggled user played by Morton (who was so brilliant as Sean Penn's mute, doormat girlfriend in "Sweet and Lowdown").

Between bloodshot romance, lost souls sex and fiery arguments, they carry each other toward their next fix, just trying to "feel alive."

Directed by Alison Maclean ("Crush") and based on a book of short stories by Denis Johnson, "Jesus' Son" is held together by the magnetism of Crudup and Morton, and by Maclean's resourceful style that taps into Crudup's fried brain for its deliberately fractured narrative style.

FH's storytelling will sometimes stall in a daze, meander or be thrown into reverse because he forgot to fill in a blank in the plot, and Maclean knows all the best hallucinogenic visual tricks for giving the audience a druggie's perspective on the world.

Crudup is an actor one high-profile role away from being a star, but he admirably continues to resist trading on his leading-man good looks, choosing instead parts that challenge him to poke around in the darker parts of his psyche, like FH here and like the aspiring politician haunted by memories of a dead lover in "Waking the Dead."

Morton, an actress with an intrinsic talent for lending bottomless depth to simple roles no matter their limitations, turns what could have been a High Times twist on an ornamental girlfriend part into an mainliner so compelling that you want FH to get his act together and rescue her from herself.

But a lot of the time the picture feels like it's just going through the drug-addled motions without much emotional connection to the characters.

FH gets high with a couple equally wayward bad influences -- Denis Leary is a cowboy pal who ODs, Jack Black ("High Fidelity") is a pill-pilfering orderly at a hospital where gets a "responsible" job after Michelle gets pregnant. There's some soul-searching when characters die.

But nothing about "Jesus' Son" has much lasting impact, in part because the movie lingers in the seriously uninteresting world of 12-step rehab for the last couple reels, drawing on easy metaphors from FH's job in a home for the handicapped.

The film isn't inherently flawed in any way. There just isn't anything special about it, save the deeply submerged performances of Crudup and Morton, who are always worth watching.

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