Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 31 - JESUS' SON (2000)


- Rated R for graphic drug use, strong language, sexuality and some violent images.
- Starring Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Jack Black, Denis Leary, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper, Michael Shannon
- Written by Elizabeth Cuthrell, David Urrutia & Oren Moverman (Based on the book by Denis Johnson)
- Directed by Alison Maclean
- Running time: 1hr 47min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!) 


Back in the late 90's, I was really into Indie films just for the sake of it.  I was an aspiring (still am) filmmaker and I loved anything that was different.  It took me until I saw the underrated DONNIE DARKO that I grew out of this rebellious filmmaking phase.  If I re-watched at least half of the weird pretentious movies I loved in the 90's, I probably wouldn't dig them so much anymore.  Reviewing lots of films over the years I have discovered one true thing.  Tastes change.  Constantly.  When I saw the trailer for this back in 1999, I thought it looked amazing.  For some reason, I never made my way to the theater to see it.  Being my last film chosen for the movie challenge, I was really looking forward to finally watching it. 

Billy Crudup plays Fuckhead.  Yup!  Fuckhead.  He's a drifter in the 70's (I think?) that meets a hippie named Michelle (Morton).  They hit it off, I guess.... but they're always on again and off again during this fucking trainwreck.  Sorry.  Usually I wait until I finish the synopsis to reveal what I thought about the film, but I just can't contain myself.  This movie is painful artsy dreck!.  So yeah, Fuckhead and Michelle are junkies and they keep splitting up.  Every once in awhile Fuckhead will wander around, getting in wacky adventures, like working at an emergency ward in a hospital with Jack Black, or volunteering at a rehab center (when he gets sober).  He also meets an older widow played by Holly Hunter who he bangs and then she completely disappears for no reason.

Sorry, I can't really explain the structure and plot of the film, cause there is none.  It is told completely in flashbacks, but it's all over the place that I just stopped trying to follow it.  The characters take a lot of drugs, swear and yell at each other a whole lot, and then try to have meaningful discussions.  This is the type of movie that I would expect from some pretentious film school graduate.  Everything has to be experimental.  Director Alison Maclean is so determined to make this film not like any other film that all of the experimentation takes the movie completely over, as it just spirals out of control. 

The only saving grace is Samantha Morton, who gives a heart wrenching performance as a drug taking bitch.  She's definitely one of my favorite actresses, I just wish she would have had a well written character.  Everyone tries so hard to be offbeat and strange.  Crudup is a lost mess here.  Jack Black was still in his annoying "look at me" phase before he became a star, as he gave distracting performances that stood out, and not in a good way (like in MARS ATTACKS and THE JACKAL).  I would have liked to see more Dennis Hopper in what was a criminally small cameo, though I guess I'll just watch EASY RIDER 50 more times instead.  Michael Shannon wasn't a good actor yet (honestly, I've only liked him in 2 films, BUG and TAKE SHELTER), Denis Leary has a pointless character, and Will Patton is wholly unnecessary. 

Director Maclean has made sure that every cheap arty filmmaking gimmick was thrown in so we wouldn't be confused that this was a Hollywood film.  When an indie film tries this hard to think out of the box, it makes me ashamed that I am a part of this.   When I'm making a film, I just want it to be good.  But I don't over-think it, and force it to be something.   A film should come about naturally.  But this is about as natural as a Cheerleader at a gutter punk rock show.

JESUS' SON is bottom of the line trash that wants to be art.  Full of self important crap, tedious performances, and embarrassing experimental flourishes, this is a movie to avoid at all costs.

1/2 (out of ****)

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