(Part 31 of an ongoing series)
Think of being curled up and floating in the darkness. Even if you could think, even if you had an imagination, would you ever imagine its opposite, this miraculous world? The Asian Taoists called it “10,000 Things”. And if the darkness just got darker and then you were dead, what would you care? How would you even know the difference?
Fuck Head (Billy Crudup)
Alison Maclean’s Jesus’ Son, based on Denis Johnson’s book of short stories, follows a familiar arc for drug-addict movies: youthful naivete, reckless intoxication, tragedy, recovery. But it stands out from most of those other drug movies because it skips over a lot of the scenes we’ve seen before and focuses on what’s unique about our hero Fuck Head’s (Billy Crudup’s) journey. For instance, after he finally hits rock bottom (following several red-herring rock bottoms), Jesus’ Son cuts past any soul-searching or intervention or detox and simply flashes forward many months into Fuck Head’s recovery, as he shaves a hardened, grizzled old man (Dennis Hopper) with some stories of his own.
While I’ve watched the entire movie a few times, I’ve watched the “Emergency” chapter quite a few more times. It features Jack Black in one of his all-time best performances (up there with High Fidelity and School Of Rock), filtering his usual mania through a muted pharmaceutical blur as Georgie the orderly. “Emergency” also has the best stories of the film, the kind of anecdotes that, if they happened to a friend of yours, you’d ask him to re-tell them several times a year. Like the gallows humor of the “Stabbing Headache” scene…
…or the surrealism of the “Cemetery Drive-In”…
…or the scene with the baby bunnies– so heartbreaking and yet, because of Fuck Head and Georgie’s child-like druggie logic, so unstoppably funny.
You could say Jesus’ Son romanticizes the addict lifestyle to some extent. But above all, I think the movie romanticizes old-fashioned redemption. It’s like, you could stumble through life being a Fuck Head, have some laughs and lots of tears, but as long as there’s some good in you, you can always rise from the dead and heal the sick with your touch.