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A young man known only as Fuckhead (Billy Crudup) recounts some of his experiences while drifting across America, thieving and taking on various low-paying jobs to support his drug habit. These include working nights in a hospital emergency ward, tearing out the copper pipes of an abandoned house to sell the spare parts. But sooner or later, practically everything Fuckhead gets involved with goes wrong including his relationship with Michelle (Samantha Morton) who's also a junkie. Finally, editing a newsletter in an institution for elderly and disabled people, he discovers that compassion gives his life purpose.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The source material (collection of short stories) might account for the episodic nature of the film, but this lends a suitable sense of edginess and dysfunction to a bravura piece of filmmaking which works - much of the time. A lot of the bizarre elements simply add to the tone, rather than to the characterisation or story, but that's probably as it should be in a film dealing with people who take trips inside their own heads.

Billy Crudup is its greatest strength, providing the pivotal character/narrator whose journey of redemption is sort of sketched out here. Not quite linear yet not too far off it, the structure is at first a device, but soon morphs into the real pattern of FH's personality, as he doses himself into insenstivity and dislocation before discovering his compassionate side. (Hence the title, one gathers.) And while this may look a little corny on paper (especially in a short synopsis), the saving grace of this film is the energetic direction and exquisite attention to soundtrack detail.

Unlike most mainstream films which use music as an emotion-track (like a laugh-track) Jesus' Son applies different criteria. Like the Green Berets song over a road kill scene with a rabbit . . . While films dealing with 'drug subculture' belong to a homogenous genre, Jesus' Son manages to retain some individuality, due to the combination of focused script writing and direction. The wry humour which abounds evolves smoothly as FH's journey develops, but by the end it is perhaps less controlled, giving way to a sitcom-esque playfullness. In the end, we are left with images: it's all tone and context, fragments of memory, snippets of songs - a pastiche of time and place, face and off-your-face.

Published March 7, 2002

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CAST: Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Denis Leary, Jack Black, Will Patton, Greg Germann, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper

DIRECTOR: Alison Maclean


Awards & festivals: Leoncino D'Oro Award, Venice Film Festival

Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival, Nominee

Best Actor, Billy Crudup, Paris Film Festival

SPECIAL FEATURES: chapter selection. Aspect ratio 4:3

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Siren Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 10, 2001

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