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Jesus' son

Threat advisory: Guarded - General risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Jesus' son

is the intense, edgy, often hilarious story of a young man's circuitous journey from drug dependency and petty crime to a life redeemed by this startling discovery of compassion. The story is set in the drug subculture of the 1970s and its protagonist (Billy Crudup) - a young man in his 20s - careens through his days getting stoned, stealing or scamming a quick buck. Through it all, he tries to make sense of the mutually destructive passion he shares with a beautiful woman named Michelle (Samantha Morton). He is also driven by an overwhelming desire to help those around him, to save them from their often sorry fates, but he repeatedly fails. (He certainly fails with Michelle). In fact, his success rate is so low, even among the lost souls and drifters with whom he hangs out, that he is known only as "Fuckhead", or "FH" for short.

Almost by a miracle, redemption does come to Fuckhead. It sneaks up on him almost imperceptibly, through barely-observed lessons learned from a colourful parade of characters who range from a crazed, pill-popping hospital orderly (Jack Black), who takes more drugs than he dispenses; a down on his luck divorcé (Denis Leary) whose only revenge against misfortune is to destroy the snug suburban home he used to share with his wife; to a half-paralysed woman he meets in rehab (Holly Hunter) who teaches him about love (and who proves to be a surprisingly nimble dance partner). Whomever he meets and wherever he goes, Fuckhead's attempts to prove his worth are either oddly touching, farcically futile or often both simultaneously.

Bit by bit, however, Fuckhead stumbles towards sobriety and lands a job at an assisted living facility where he discovers the depths of his own compassion for others, and the grace that comes with it. He also begins to write the hospital newsletter, providing him a creative outlet for his earned observations about life, love and loss.

Backed by a driving soundtrack and faithful to the fractured sense of time that distinguishes Denis Johnson's original work, the screenplay moves back and forth over five years in Fuckhead's life, delicately delineating the evolution of his character. Jesus' son is a tale that shuns sentimentality but is filled with aching empathy - a chronicle of a lost man who finds himself among the forgotten. And, in the words of director Alison Maclean, a story "that transforms the bleak and the ordinary into little epiphanies that are beautiful, poetic and really funny."

Also starring Dennis Hopper, Will Patton, Greg Germann, Antoinette Lavecchia, Mike Shannon, Ben Shenkman, John Ventimiglia and Mark Webber. Written by Elizabeth Cuthrell, Oren Moverman and David Urrutia.

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • Awards and film festivals:
    • Paris Film Festival 2000: best actor (Billy Crudup)
    • Venice Film Festival 1999: Nominated: Golden Lion
  • Studios and distributors:

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Not a lot.

In some kind of B-grade plagiarism of all the drug culture films of the past 20 years, Jesus' son gets trapped in its own little fugue and is unable to find a way out. The genre was served in a much more enthusiastic, entertaining and revealing manner by Matt Dillon in Drugstore cowboy. Too much valium, not enough speed.

For fans of Billy Crudup, and there are justifiably plenty out there, he is one of the few rewarding aspects of this flick: he's as cute as ever, he emotes, he wins, he loses and he's the main reason for Jesus' son getting such a high score. His performance is what's known in the trade as a tour de force. He controls the camera completely with his on-screen presence, something he's been working on since Inventing the Abbotts. The rest of the score comes from the hard-core, low-rent retro production values. Polyester, lapels, polyester, flares, polyester...

If you're not a Billy Crudup fan, this movie is one to fill up your "5 for $10" deal.

Security censorship classification

R 18+ (Drug use)

Surveillance time

103 minutes (1:43 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 10 January 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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