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The Jesus Rolls
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr John Turturro
prd Sidney Kimmel, John Penotti, Fernando Sulichin, Paul-Dominique Vacharasinthu, Robert Salerno
with John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Susan Sarandon, Pete Davidson, Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken, JB Smoove, Sonia Braga, Tim Blake Nelson, Gloria Reuben, Michael Badalucco
release US 28.Feb.20,
With a wry grin, John Turturro takes his memorable character from the Coen brothers' 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski and puts him in a remake of Bertrand Blier's 1974 classic Les Valseuses. The film defies expectations at every point as it casually strolls through an amusing freeform odyssey about crime and friendship. It's all rather random and ridiculous, but it has a certain smiley charm.
Just out of prison, Jesus Quintana (Turturro) reteams with his pal Petey (Cannavale) and immediately sparks trouble stealing the muscle car of a hairdresser (Hamm). They also steal his girlfriend Marie (Tautou), then hang out aimlessly, finding themselves in a series of misadventures that keep them on the run. This of course includes a spot of bowling, as well as burglary, dancing and interacting with a range of quirky figures like the sultry ex-con Jean (Sarandon) and her surly ex-con son Jack (Davidson). And none of them seems to care where they're heading.
The loose, episodic structure makes it tricky for the audience to connect with the characters. There are a few flare-ups of emotion and irony that add some nice textures to the generally offbeat plot currents, which clearly seem headed nowhere in particular, just like the characters. Very little about the story makes any logical sense, including relationships that are never quite defined. But then the reasons anyone gets together remain out of reach.
Each member of the cast creates a vividly detailed character with his or her own story. At the centre, Turturro effortlessly lopes along as the too-cool Jesus, creating a surprisingly warm bromance with Cannavale's Petey. Tautou has her own bright-spark persona, Sarandon is terrific as always in the most serious role, and Davidson holds his own amid these veteran performers as a surprising young man with his own plan. And others are basically cameos, including lovely turns from Braga (as Jesus' mum) and Walken (as a lively warden).
It's strikingly obvious from the start that Turturro never intended for this to be a sequel to The Big Lebowski, which may annoy fans. Instead, he throws his now-iconic character into a story with its own rather groovy rhythms, leaning into Blier's cheerful mix of hedonism and nihilism. In today's climate, the film feels particularly odd because no one seems to have any passion for anything, drifting along seeking vaguely unsatisfying pleasures. And for a movie about an impulsive, inadvertent crime spree, it's bizarrely cheerful.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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