Jesus' Son (1999) Poster


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Not just for smack fiends anymore.
exterminating-angel22 October 2001
Beautiful, humane film filled with menagerie of "off-the-wall" (sorry) supporting characters. This film succeeds where all other "drug films" fail. It doesn't cram a message down your throat. It's not concerned with retreading the territory of "Trainspotting" or its clones. It has similar scenes, but the tone is completely different. Billy Crudup also delivers his real star-making performance (this came out before "Almost Famous") as a young man whose name begins with an 'F' and ends with an 'uckhead'. His rambling narrative makes this film seem more like a friendly anecdote than a wittier-than-thou voice-over which always seems to do more to flatten out a film than to expand it. This film uses drugs as a vehicle to show how all of us need some sort of redemption, but we have to get it on our own terms.
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Solid little gem! Well worth a watch!
moviegoer23 May 2001
I was totally disarmed by this wonderful movie! Most movies about drug addiction hit you over the head with the misery and destruction of the users. Yet this movie was about so much more--a whole host of characters marching to a different beat. This movie told it's tale in short snippets...I almost felt like I was eavesdropping or spying on the characters at various moments in their lives. Nice balance of lightheartedness and seriousness. Some truly great lines. When a nurse tells FH his girlfriend is comfortable now. He asks with total naivete: "Is she dead?"

I see that others here have problems with the title and the reference to Jesus. Not me. Aren't all of us (and esecially the world's "losers") just Christ figures waiting for redemption. It made me think of the line, the meek shall inherit the earth. The mystical touches, whether drug induced or not, were wonderful.
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Strange film, but a good one
ill_behavior8 December 2004
I enjoyed this, it's different. The plot is non-linear, but that doesn't really matter. It contains scenes that may disturb, but for one reason or another, I forgot to be disturbed. The acting is very good, I don't think I'd ever seen a Billy Crudup film before, and came away with a new name to search for. The soundtrack is excellent, the humour is odd, but it's the supporting cast which make the film; the cameo's are all spot on. I dislike Denis Leary, but he's good here, I wasn't a particularly big fan of JB Jack Black either, but he shines here and I saw him in a new light.

Low budget, sure, more films could do with the charm of this one, it tries to do something different, and I think it's a winner.
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Best Independent Film Of The Year!
jlabine23 May 2001
Brilliantly pieced together from assorted short stories by Denis Johnson, director Alison Maclean brings depth, humour, compassion, and darkness to the screen adaption. Heroin addict FH (ryhmes with: Duck Bed) goes through a strange odyssey of loss and understanding his compassion. Brilliantly (and this is not an overstatement) acted by Billy Crudup (who should have been given an Oscar nod for his performance), he brings a complexity to his character that is missing from most actors around. Minor details are amazingly evident in his portrayel of FH, as the lovelorn, selfish, and sensitive junkie. Samantha Morton is outstanding as Michelle (FH's girlfriend), giving an intense and moody performance (which the viewer mourns the loss of half way through). The movie mixes moments of surreal madness, as the viewer is taken along existential scenes that could be described as hallucinogenic and funny. The scene where a gentleman (played by book author Denis Johnson) comes into a hospital with a hunting knife stuck in his eye is uncomfortably hillarious. Drugged up hospital attendant Georgie (Jack Black in a standout performance) proceeds to pop pills as he attempts to pull the knife out. But this is just one of the many great cameos that fills the screen. Denis Leary (looking a lot like Dennis Hopper in "Easy Rider", Holly Hunter (playing a neurotic widow with a limp), and Dennis Hopper (looking amazingly like Dennis Hopper too) give great performances as well. Alison Maclean directs the film with great use of color and cinematography, but never crowding the actor's performance. Included as well, is a great music theme by Joe Henry, that incorporates the blending of psychedlic guitar and wurlitzer electric piano work. The rest of the soundtrack is great as well, with music by Wilco, Joe Tex, Neil Young, and Booker T & The MG's. This film was one of my favourite films of the year, and unfortunately didn't get as much notice as it deserved. Highly recommended!
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A neglected classic.
parkesja26 June 2002
This film was buried here- apart from the acclaim in 'Uncut' magazine; I didn't manage to see this 'til this year. My initial viewing was a little underwhelmed- being a fan of Johnson's book I had worked this up to impossible heights in my mind. However, on a second viewing I enjoyed the film more- the nouvelle-vague via Scorsese editing & structure seemed much better 2nd time around.

The film is closest to 'Drugstore Cowboy'- though parts such as the split-screen or the digital editing as F***head takes pills in the Emergency Room could have come from 'Requiem for a Dream'. The source stories have been extended and made more cohesive- as with the adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr's 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' by Uli Edel.

The film is wonderfully shot- a great scene is the drive-in/cemetery that plays 'Carnival of Souls' (though I thought I saw Samantha Morton caught in an almost Anton 'Depeche Mode' Corbijin style!); imagine 'Zabriskie Point' without the metaphysical masturbation...

The acting is uniformly great- Crudup & Morton are fantastic leads, while Denis Leary, Greg Germann, Holly Hunter are among the excellent supports. The short Dennis Hopper shaving scene is one of the greatest pieces of cinema I have seen in recent years; while Jack Black almost steals the film with his amusing "listen to my shoes". And Denis Johnson is great as hunting knife in eye guy. Oh and Will Patton pops up as 'John Smith'- still he was in 'The Postman', so not quite yet forgiven.

The soundtrack (chosen by Johnson) is great- Neil Young's 'Cowgirl in the Sand', Wilco's 'Airline to Heaven' & 'She's a Jar', 'Hang on Sloopy' and the great score. The highlight is Morton's gyrating dance to 'Oh Sweet Pea'- almost as great as that dance scene ripped off for 'Pulp Fiction' from Godard's 'Bande a Part'.Only quibble is- where was 'Heroin' by The Velvet Underground?

'Jesus' Son' is a touching, funny, and tender film that deserves to find an audience. There are too many great moments here- Hunter's arm waving in the air, Beverly Home, the Amish, the laundry scene, the ER scene, the rabbits roadtrip etc. Terribly depressing that mediocrity like 'Human Traffic' & 'Trainspotting' finds an audience here- but a film like this isn't allowed to (except at a few arthouse cinemas). Pity- and Alison MacLean's debut 'Crush' is also excellent; here's to possible adaptations of Denis Johnson's 'Already Dead' & 'The Name of the World'- by David Lynch and Paul Schrader respectively (hopefully)...Check out Johnson's books- as this film's use of voiceover stems right from them.
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Well-Acted, Beautiful Little Road Movie Through Addiction
noralee12 December 2005
I chose to see "Jesus' Son" for Billy Crudup and director Allison Maclean, who did the terrifically creepy romantic short I saw on the Sci Fi Channel a few weeks ago, "Kitchen Sink."

"Jesus' Son" is a picaresque road movie traveling through addictions, and manages to miss wallowing in the depression that made "Leaving Las Vegas" so unrelenting . Samantha Morton has incredible chemistry with Crudup who is fascinating to keep watching even as his character is a passive naif whom we really don't learn anything about.

My biggest complaint is that the cameos by recognizable and/or famous actors (Denis Leary, Jack Black of "High Fidelity," Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper) make the source material of short stories--which I assume are where the chapter headings come from-- too obvious; I would have preferred intriguing character actors or complete unknowns.

This is one of those "little movies" where you see a filmmaker in love with her tools of the medium, because it is both literate and explores the story visually, with judicious use of fantasies and hallucinations.

The Joe Henry musical score is wonderful, and the soundtrack selection of, including several Wilco songs, and offbeat rock and r & b classics are also commentaries on the action (amusingly the only Henry song used comes in over the radio that an annoyed Crudup turns off in order to hear the dialog).

(originally written 6/24/2000)
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Searching for Meaning
mermatt19 August 2001
"Searching for Meaning" could be the title of the movie as well as of the reactions of many people who didn't want to see below the mixed-up surface of the film. The story is the random ramblings of a reformed drug addict looking for some meaning to life, death, and the difference between the two.

There are some interesting symbols: a man with Jesus' heart, a singing Menonite mermaid in a shower, drugs as an escape from the drug called life, etc. Not the average stuff of a mainstream movie which explains why this is an independent film.

We go along on an oddly comic journey during which we contemplate the price we pay for our dreams, explore the way we hide our deformities from the world, realize that we pretend to be normal because we want to be normal -- whatever normal is. We all want to find our place in a strange world where we have to consider the answers to the questions "Why did God make us?" and "Why did God make us the way we are?"

The solution to the riddles seems to be connecting with all our fellow riddlers, realizing that we'll understand someday what it all means.

This is a disturbing, funny, sad film -- not for everybody, but an interesting experience for people who don't mind thinking about what is being shown on the screen.
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It's really a light-hearted rhythmic piece. In the end, it's practically poetic.
ruby_fff9 July 2000
It's not "Panic in Needle Park" 1975 or "Rush" 1991. It's not heavy at all. True, the subject is about the drug scene in the '70's, but how can anything be heavy with Jack Black in it? (Yes, the one who delivered a surprisingly impressive singing at the finale of John Cusack's passion "High Fidelity" 2000). JESUS' SON is neither your usual Hollywood glamorized drug movie.

I was skeptical when I first heard about this film in Dec. '99 -- another one on drugs. Then when the trailer started, it grew on me. The image of framing an arc of a wreath above Crudup's head was the crowning influence that I must see this movie. In any case, Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton are quite an intense pairing.

The whole film seems like it's on it's own trip (pun intended). Crudup is FH, a rather lovable character. He is actually a shy person. Now and then he emits a sense of humor and it comes across so innocently -- you just can't blame him. He's trying to do right. Billy Crudup carried the picture from beginning to end. We see him and hear him narrating. The words uttered are eloquent. Crudup's clear enunciation adds to the fluidity of the text that we're hearing throughout the film.

Watching this film is rather like playing an album, you can go back and forth just by lifting the turntable needle. The vignettes are different tracks: on the road trip with Jack Black and the rabbits, and dealing with the knife in the head emergency case during a hospital shift (with Jack Black contributing his comic rhythm and delivering his lines equally fun to hear); shaving Dennis Hopper and interviewing him at the same time; interactions with Holly Hunter before and after AA meetings; staff routines at the senior home in Phoenix; repeatedly watching the Amish couple through the window glass; going to Denis Leary's house and the aftermath; of course, the interludes and episodes with Samantha Morton as Michelle. Humor is ever present.

Bravo to the script by three screenplay writers, based on Denis Johnson's short stories, and kudos to director Alison Mclean. She directed a film with such clarity and simple strokes. Billy Crudup would be the reason to see this film if not anything else, he exudes a halo of light about him -- his angelic face, even with his coy whiskers, still has a certain innocence about him, and according to FH, he does have ominous feelings in him of what to come. Jesus' son, he very well is. Enjoy this film, it's an excellent effort and production all round, including the soundtrack music and songs of the 70's.

Don't miss "Without Limits" 1998, another Billy Crudup must-see, if you haven't yet.
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I enjoyed viewing it but am left without much lasting effect.
TxMike19 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie had been on my 'radar' for several years, intrigued both by the title and the actors. Finally it came up on my Netflix streaming list. I had high hopes after reading the review by the critic Ebert, who I find usually helpful, and also the relatively high IMDb rating. But sadly when it was all over I found it to be not much of a satisfying movie at all.

I like Billy Crudup, he is a good actor. Here he plays FH (short for F***-Head), and the moniker fits because as good as his intentions mostly are, he just has a knack for messing things up. He seems sincere, but almost a simpleton, and especially when we see him do some of the things he does. Like the time he hears a woman singing while in the shower, he goes into the home and lies down on the bed to listen to her. Until the husband comes in. Like, who would actually do something like that?

The other key character is Samantha Morton as Michelle and when FH meets her she is already an addict. Her addiction pulls him in too and, while they genuinely seem to care for each other, you can't really care for another person when you are addicted to drugs and wonder how you will support your habit.

The film has quite a number of other well-known actors, like Dennis Leary, Dennis Hopper, Jack Black, Holly Hunter, but mostly in brief parts. It is puzzling why the title is what it is. There are many funny, or just interesting, moments in the film but for me it did not add up to a worthwhile movie.
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Thank the lord
flingebunt3 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Normally I am not a fan of drug or alcohol related movies as they tend to be a little bit protentious such as Requim for a Dream or Leaving Las Vegas.

They try and say something specifically about the drug use, instead Jesus' Son tells a story about a person who just happens to take drugs.

Here, like life, reality is confused and they choices we make haunt us.

The main character Fuck Head is the ultimate loser. He takes drugs, only lives because his girlfriend saves his life, yet he lets her die in the same circumstance. He sees the sacred heart of Jesus on a man who tells him to go away. But ultimately he finds his own place in the world and sees beauty where others can't.

This is an art-house movie, and the reason that art house movies don't turn up in mainstream cinemas is because they have limited appeal. So maybe you will hate this movie or maybe you will recognise the loser in yourself in Fuck Head. I know I did. Sure I want to be a cross between Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt with a touch of Edward Norton, but I know I am more of a Fuck Head. If you are too, watch this movie.
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I tell you things aren't quite the same
matt-154826 July 2006
Being a huge fan of Denis Johnson and Lou Reed, I was curious how they could make a movie from such unusually random events. The movie does such a great job stitching together Johnson's stories. They are extraordinary, humorous, and often touching. Together they make, in my opinion, one of the best 'drug' related movies ever. It is Borroughsesque in its candid, accurate portrayal of heroin addiction. The flashbacks and fuzzy pieced together vignettes resemble the actual effect heroin has on time. Time seems to slow down with days starting to blur into nights. The movie really touched me as I saw some of FH in myself. I too am a recovering addict. I have been clean for over a year now. Thank god for suboxone!!! For anyone grappling with heroin addiction please consider suboxone therapy. It has truly saved my life, marriage, and sanity.
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A smart-ass soundtrack for a life of squalor...
moonspinner5510 May 2011
Billy Crudup, as an aimless young screw-up and pill-popper in 1970s Chicago, has the mannerisms of a user down right, yet he doesn't convince as an addict. While riding on the dirty subway cars in the darkened city, interacting with the street life and the strays he seems to attract, Crudup certainly has the appropriate glassy-eyed expression and sheepish grin, but he's too lean and muscular and healthy-looking to be taken for a troubled junkie. The film, an adaptation of Denis Johnson's book of short stories, has been fairly well realized by director Alison Maclean (who has a vivid eye for detail); unfortunately, the protagonist isn't really a character at all, and this isn't entirely Crudup's fault. He hasn't been conceived as anything but a walking foul up, one with fabricated answers and--in his narration--'deep thoughts' soaked in the smugness of an elevated consciousness. Many stars help out in support, yet the film is less a dramatic achievement than an arty, somewhat indifferent passel of scenes. ** from ****
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The year's weirdest film
mercury-2611 March 2001
I like an offbeat film as much as the next guy. Heck, the weirder the better, I say. But this film crosses the line even for me. At least I could actually sit through this entire thing, unlike its older (even weirder) cousin, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". I compare the two films because they're both drug-trippin', hallucinatory affairs. Both of them, for some reason, drew big names out of the woodwork to get involved. The star of "Jesus' Son" is Billy Crudup, along with the relatively unknown Samantha Morton. But also on board is Holly Hunter, Will Patton, Dennis Hopper, and Denis Leary in small roles.

These films' defining stamp is that they are told in an intentionally haphazard manner. Put simply, this makes a film that's difficult to watch. Both films are based on novels (I've read neither) and I can safely say this storytelling style befits the page more than it does the screen. It's supposed to make the experience more challenging for the audience, leaving them to try and piece this collection of strange occurrences into something that means anything. Let's just say I don't prefer this type of movie-going experience.

I didn't find anything particularly great about this film, nor did I find anything to be at all endearing. The result is an unsatisfying hour and a half of movie watching. Don't use drugs. Don't bother with "Jesus' Son".

Grade: D+
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A quasi blend of `Drugstore Cowboy' and `My Own Private Idaho'
george.schmidt28 April 2004
JESUS' SON (2000) **1/2 Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Denis Leary, Holly Hunter, Jack Black, Greg Germann, Dennis Hopper, Will Patton. Big-screen adaptation of Denis Johnson's collection of stories centering on oddball junkie and anti-hero Fuck Head (Crudup in a fine display of acting) whose odyssey of despair and significant frustration correlates with his unique relationships with its cast of strong character acting and hazy gleam cast by director Alison MacLean. A quasi blend of `Drugstore Cowboy' and `My Own Private Idaho' with a bent perspective of a drug-fueled world bleakly attempting to clean itself for a better good. A bit too much in spurts but has its distinct charm largely thanks to the acting and memorable black out sequences (FYI: that's author Johnson as an emergency room patient with a hunting knife jutting from his eye). Not exactly subtle but not forgettable either.
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tired little tale
ebh12 July 2000
This dreamy little film is well acted (especially by Crudup), and nicely filmed, but it really goes nowhere, and does so for a very long time. It follows "FH", played by Crudup. A drug induced loser, and his failed relationship with his girlfriend, played by the talented Samantha Morton. Simply put, it's pretty to look at, but it's dull and nothing new.
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Very Funny! If only the cast were used better.
filmfanatic3 August 2000
JESUS'S SON, the new hallucination from the director of CRUSH tries to follow in the footsteps of DRUGSTORE COWBOY and TRAINSPOTTING but doesn't quite hit the mark. I really wasn't all that impressed. It had some funny scenes but it didn't seem to have an ending. I mean, it didn't seem like the director knew how to tie everything up at the end. Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton were well used and did a fine job but the rest of the cast could have been used better. The scene with Dennis Hopper was just there, it didn't seem to have any meaning or purpose at all. I would have liked to know more about the Holly Hunter character too. Jack Black was great but he just disappears with no explanation. Dennis Leary part was small but very effective though. The director, Alison Maclean has potential but I think she needs to learn how to use her actors better.
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Last Train to Sucks-ville
tygerhardt28 April 2003
This movie was one of the most sorry assed films I have had the displeasure of watching. How anyone can mention this film in the same breath as such films as Requiem For A Dream or Drugstore Cowboy is completely beyond me.

The lead actors were really annoying. I have known a lot of junkies. Very few of them look or act too much like the actors in this film. I found them to be completely unbelievable and absurd. This film tries WAY too hard to be hip. The dialog in many of the scenes between the male and female leads often dives deeply into cliché, psudo-hip dreck that may appeal to high school kids or 20 somethings who think heroin addicts in love are super cool. The delivery of said scenes makes Sid and Nancy come off looking like f***ing Hamlet. I was left with the impression that the book was better than the film.

This theme has been done to death in other more brilliant films. That's not to say that this film didn't have a few great visual moments and a few decent scenes courtesy of Jack Black and Dennis Hopper, but they were hardly enough to save this film from becoming a long, dreary Requiem For A Dream Light.

If you find shows like The Real World to be "really deep" or if you are the kind of person who thinks attractive actors/actresses = talent then this film should really do it for you.

If you have known any junkies personally then you know that their lives seldom if ever resemble the lives of the folks portrayed in this film and you will find it to be a complete fluff piece. You might even find it laughably unrealistic if the film wasn't so damn droll in general.

Save your bucks and the precious moments that will be robbed from your life by watching this crap-tastrophe and just rent Drugstore Cowboy, Permanent Midnight or Requiem For A Dream.
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A Point Would Be Nice.
screamingfoot5 May 2004
I waited and waited for something to happen. I waited and waited for some

theme or persuasive theory to emerge. Neither happened. I saw some nice

scenes here and there, but saw no cohesive plot that could be called unified. There was a lot of potential here, but no point at all. It's a shame really.

Performances were great, and the production value was there. But there's

actually no point to the story. I can't imagine what those actors were thinking when they agreed to do this because this film could never have had any

commercial potential whatsoever.
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Strong Acting By Crudup and Friends
gbheron8 August 2002
Billy Crudup shows us again that he's not afraid to work in a wide-variety of roles, and in 'small' movies. In "Jesus' Son", he plays a low-life, clueless, heroin addict named Fuckhead. I don't think you'll see Leonardo, Tom, or any of the other young, A-list actors coming close to roles like this. The film is placed in the early 1970s and follows Crudup through a few years of his heroin-addled life. Narrated by Fuckhead, he chronicles his own life from his introduction to heroin, through his attempts to quit. The narrative moves backwards and forwards in time, almost as if Fuckhead is remembering something out of sequence which might interest the viewer. Definitely not for everyone, but in my opinion is a very interesting movie.
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nunculus26 June 2000
The New Zealand-born director Alison Maclean shot this prototypical indie drugs-and-deadbeats movie in widescreen, but without the vast image's usual pearly, studio-style crispness. The movie seems vaporous around the edges, like the snowbound compositions of Robert Altman's QUINTET, and the images have a yellowy, rotten-Polaroid quality that seems based on Nan Goldin's portraits of the dispossessed.

Based on Denis Johnson's novel, the movie is early John Irving meets DRUGSTORE COWBOY. FH (Billy Crudup), the zero hero, loves his partner in heroin addiction (Samantha Morton), but somehow keeps sidestepping happiness through a series of dropped balls--which involve a squashed handful of baby rabbits pulled from their dead mommy's guts, an ER patient with a knife in his eye, and (most painfully) a Lou Gehrig's patient abandoned by his wife. The worldview on display here was better articulated on the back bumper of a pick-up truck: Life's a Bitch and Then You Die. The epiphanies are lame after the joky horrors the movie stockpiles. And as FH, Billy Crudup has the looks of a movie star, and the stick-to-itiveness of an actor, but lacks the personality or the truthfulness to suffice as either one. He is, to put it harshly, no Matt Dillon. And for all Maclean's evident talent, and despite the lovely pass-through performances of Will Patton, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper and others, this movie plays like uncharming, creep-inducing Gus Van Sant: the insistence on Letterman-style ironic snickering at back-breaking tragedy comes to seem slightly nuts.
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Heroin Chic with Humor and Heart
jimbosil18 June 2000
The latest in a growing trend of "Heroin is Bad But In Some Ways It's Great" films, "Jesus' Son" stands out with it's loopy, not-exactly-chronological first person narrative that pretty accurately reflects the mind of a junkie. Director Alison Maclean has some lovely and disturbing visuals here, in particular a scene where two junkies wander off a highway and into a field that could alternately be a graveyard or a drive-in movie. The script, based on a novel, stretches out as a series of vignettes surrounding the travels of lovable junkie known only as "F*ckhead" (Billy Crudup, in a performance that will dethrone DiCrappio as The Next Big Thing) whose first-person narrations offers some almost profound, ideot-savant wisdom.

A strong supporting cast includes Samantha Morton as F*ckhead's wild/tragic junkie girlfriend (Her scenes with Crudup play like "Sid and Nancy" with a little more heart), Denis Leary in his best role yet as a gruff, shaky-handed Cowboy Junkie, Dennis Hopper as a weary recovering addict, Greg Germann (from "Ally McBeal")as a hopelessly "limited" doctor, and Holly Hunter, who in a small part rises above the tongue-in-cheek camp surrounding her character's tragic story. And the true stand-out is Jack Black, the hefty young character actor who gets the most laughs as a drugged-out hospital orderly. His scenes in the hospital with Crudup are some of the most frightening, funny and bizarre scenes to appear on film so far this year.
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Love this soundtrack too
theknownames20 November 2019
Excellent Soundtrack, beautiful acting. I give this a 9 there were even a couple of laugh out loud moments in this otherwise immersive drama
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Very Odd!
davyd-022377 August 2019
I refer to the title....and in the 1st 20 minutes of the film...we have a car smash, lots of drugs and alcohol, sex and swearing and a murder!...if there is a good ending to this particular story it must come fairly close to the end as those who appear in the 1st 20 minutes are completely unlikeable and have NO morals between them. Given the cast the opener is very very dull and this doesn't, in my view, qualify for any form of entertainment unless of course you are amongst those who enjoy sex, drugs, swearing and murder!...DONT bother...The title is simply laughable
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Ramble on
labng10 October 2018
Just kind of wandering tale about wandering around trying to find your place in the world. If you don't have any place to be, you might end up here. Some great performances. Duh, the cast. A little less devastating than most films about addiction. Some really humorous scenes and some heart-warming scenes to take the edge off.
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