Saturday, August 15, 2009

Part Two

Click here
for part one

From time
to time, I'll
be excavat-
ing reviews
that aren't
otherwise available online. Before I started freelancing for Amazon, I us-
ed to contribute customer reviews. In 2000, I reviewed Jesus' Son.
Since then, the DVD has gone in and out of print. On the off-chance
it disappears from the site altogether, this review also lives here.

(Alison Maclean, US, 1999, 107 mins.)

It's hard to believe Drugstore Cowboy first made its debut 20
years ago. Just as 1996's Trainspotting has sometimes been de-
scribed as a "Drugstore Cowboy for the '90s," it's tempting to
describe Jesus' Son as a "Drugstore Cowboy for the '00s."

Like Gus Van Sant's now-clas-
sic film—I consider Danny Boyle's a classic, too—the story revolves around two heroin addicts (Billy Crud-
and Samantha Morton, both excellent), it takes place in the not-so-distant past (the 1970s instead of the '60s), and it draws from a pre-
existing literary source, in this case, Denis Johnson's
1992 short story collection
of the same name.

Despite everything—mostly bad—that Crudup's Fuckhead experiences throughout the film, Jesus' Son is more of a character study (FH, as he's known, also serves as narrator).

Like Portland's Gus Van Sant, Ottowa-born director Alison Maclean refrains from judging FH, but she isn't as concerned with his drug use as much as his character, his nature—his very essence, if you will. And if you can't find anything to like about the hapless FH, you'll probably feel the same way about her darkly comic adaptation (after the well received, but little-seen Crush).

As in High Fidelity, Jack Black provides
much of the humor, although Crudup,
anticipating his work in Almost Famous—"I am a Golden God!"—proves equally adept at comedy during some choice moments. Dennis Hopper, Denis Leary, and Holly Hunter (in a well acted, but not particularly convincing part) also star.

Fans of Jeffrey Schatzberg's jittery The Panic in Needle Park (featuring Al Pacino in his first leading role), Vincent Gallo's loopy Buffalo 66, and especially Drugstore Cowboy should find much to enjoy.

Joe Henry's fine soundtrack only serves to sweetens the deal,
the highlight of which must surely be Tommy Roe's funky "Sweet Pea," to which Morton's Michelle does quite the dance, drawing FH into her dangerously druggy world without saying a word.

The theatrical trailer

Incidentally, the Velvet Underground's "Heroin", in which Lou Reed feels "just like Jesus' Son" when he's "rushing on [his] run," is conspicuous by its absence, but then again: why be so obvious?

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original posting. Since the
release of this film, Maclean has concentrated on premium cable,
directing episodes of The L Word and The Tudors. Images from
All Movie Guide, Internet Movie Poster Awards, and Joe Bow-
man's Fin de cinema. At his site, Bowman notes, "Lionsgate will
release Jesus' Son on 23 June. Universal previously released
the film on DVD in 2001." He also names the cast members I
didn't: "Michael Shannon, Mark Webber, Ben Shenkman and
Will Patton, as well as author Johnson and Miranda July."

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