Jesus' Son

Eight years after she surprised critics with her dark and disturbing CRUSH, writer-director Alison Maclean returns with a sweet and sad adaptation of Denis Johnson's collection of stories about junkie life in the heartland. The film begins in the middle: It's 1974, and a greasy young hitchhiker is standing on the side of the road, looking for his girl....read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Eight years after she surprised critics with her dark and disturbing CRUSH, writer-director Alison Maclean returns with a sweet and sad adaptation of Denis Johnson's collection of stories about junkie life in the heartland. The film begins in the middle: It's 1974, and a

greasy young hitchhiker is standing on the side of the road, looking for his girl. Who he is and how he came to be thumbing a ride in the pouring rain becomes clear as the film flashes back to Iowa City, three years earlier, when a young drifter known only as "FH" (Billy Crudup) meets and falls

for heroin addict Michelle (Samantha Morton); a year later they're sharing needles in a dirty Holiday Inn somewhere in the Midwest. Maclean preserves the fractured structure of Johnson's interlinked short stories — she even divides the film into chapters — and lets the childlike FH tell

his own story. That means it stops, starts, jumps back, nods out and trips over itself in ways a less assured writer would never dare. FH gets a job as an orderly in a hospital where he and coworker (Jack Black) inhale pharmaceuticals; F.H. spends a day ripping copper wiring out of an abandoned

house with a fellow junkie (Denis Leary), and sees a naked, parasailing angel; FH loses Michelle but finds redemption through voyeurism and Al Anon. Maclean punctuates her film with small flights of visual fantasy, à la DRUGSTORE COWBOY: an incidental crown of thorns on a dirty diner

window; a blazing sacred heart in an end-of-the-line Laundromat; an ecstatic vision at an abandoned drive-in. But for all the divine touches, FH is no Jesus, or even his son: He's just another wide-eyed American Adam on the road again, a dazed and confused Huck Finn of the highways.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Eight years after she surprised critics with her dark and disturbing CRUSH, writer-director Alison Maclean returns with a sweet and sad adaptation of Denis Johnson's collection of stories about junkie life in the heartland. The film begins in the middle: I… (more)

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