"Ignore the storyline, check out the performances."
Wellington-born, New York-based Maclean brings us her first feature since Crush. She has been working mostly in American tv, directing Sex & the City episodes, amongst others. For a title that promises the metaphysical, Jesus' Son actually delivers the cold hard life of a loser, known as FH (Fuckhead), played by Billy Crudup (Without Limits, Waking the Dead). It is set in the 1970s and is based on Denis Johnson's book of short stories, which was in the New York Times Best Books List of 1992.FH stumbles through life, forever making mistakes. He meets Michelle (Samantha Morton), who introduces him to drug-taking. FH tries his best, despite his other failings, which is what keeps us sympathetic to him. According to the media info kit, he eventually has his redemption through realising his capacity for compassion. I actually had trouble buying this concept. There were several different points in the second half of the film where this could have been happening, but I really wasn't sure. But maybe that's the point of the film. The story seemed to be first-half-heavy, taking too long to get to the point(s?) where FH is changing significantly.
There are some subtle religious references - laying on of hands, a hint at temptation in the desert - mostly it's in-your-face life in loserville. It is told in FH's voice, in a non-chronological sequence. And this is where the the film wins max points - FH (in voiceover) tells the tale as if he has mild brain damage, or at least a serious hangover. He forgets things, tries his best to explain, and in doing so gives a real insight into the mind of someone who slides down a slippery slope.Billy Crudup gives a sensational performance: in the first 20 minutes he shows more about how people can become junkies than any amount of academic articles can tell. Usually I find voiceovers intrusive, but in this case it was spot-on. The production designer must have had a blast with all those bad-taste clothes, and the contemporary soundtrack is deftly woven in. This film is not a nice night's escapist entertainment, but if you want an insight into the drug sub-culture, check it out.