as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren
There may be no more precise period piece on the big screen this year than Jesus' Son. Not talking costumes, or sexy retroisms, but feelings. Based on Denis Johnston's novel, it follows the early 70s drifting of a lost soul known as Fuckhead (Billy Crudup), whose tenuous connection to reality is almost severed when he hooks up with Michelle, an equally out of bounds junkie (Samantha Morton). The pair spend most of their time in bed, in their underwear, searching (and from the looks of it, this was much easier to accomplish three decades ago without facing the wrath of the world).
The world and the people in it move much faster now. FH, an idiot savant searching for redemption finds religious symbolism everywhere. If not for the penetrating performances of Crudup and Morton, it could've been an indulgent period piece. Instead, FH's rapturous wanderings don't seem purposeless; he's selfish and abused, but open to the universe, an imperfect being trying to understand and cling to shreds of beauty and truth. (Again, the movie is definitely a product of the early '70s. Today, when someone exhibits that kind of burning, they're smothered with anti-depressants and told to get back to reality.)
Following the book's structure, the movie is all recollections and flashbacks, hopping from an abortion clinic, to scenes of petty theft, to FH's job as a hospital orderly (alongside the incomparable Jack Black), to eventual rehab in Arizona. Although FH is a junkie for most of the story, Jesus' Son more closely resembles Wiseblood than Drugstore Cowboy. The NA confessions of a black junkie sum up FH's life; there are people, and not just drug fiends, who walk alone at night, looking through windows where other people are leading normal, happy lives.
But there is hope, if FH's life is any indication. Eventually, his mental haze begins to lift, and he encounters similar souls (including Dennis Hopper and Holly Hunter) at the board and care he moves into. (A place whose residents "make God look like a senseless maniac.") Jesus was a wanderer, with an affinity for the lost but not hopeless. If you consider yourself among them, you must see Jesus' Son.