Sunday, May 3, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Jesus Rolls

The Jesus Rolls
Directed by John Turturro
Released February 28, 2020

A sequel, prequel, or spinoff is inherently connected to the film that inspired it. Characters originally seen in one film will return in another, where they may have an amplified role or be given a meatier backstory. It may merely be the same universe that serves as a setting, with different players or even a separate time period to anchor a new chapter. Relying on expectations created by a first appearance can obviously boost ticket sales and audience anticipation, but it may also result in setting up the wrong idea for those watching to relive the same experience they had the first time they met a character.

Jesus Quintana (John Turturro) is released from prison and picked up by his best friend Peter (Bobby Cannavale). The two immediately begin a wild journey of theft and adventure, beginning by stealing a car from a hairdresser (Jon Hamm) and bringing along his shampooist Marie (Audrey Tautou) for the ride. They soon discover a passion that exists between the three of them and experiment on their romance, meeting other colorful characters along the way, including a mechanic (J.B. Smoove), a newly-released criminal (Susan Sarandon), and her mild-mannered son (Pete Davidson).

Those who come into this film excited after looking at the poster, which features Jesus licking a bowling ball, will be sorely disappointed. Connections to the original film, “The Big Lebowski,” which was released twenty-two years ago, are minimal, and Jesus “rolls,” but mostly in stolen cars, and only at the bowling alley in one short scene. Instead, this is a comedy about people who have no aim in life other than to be aimless, gaining delight from amusing themselves with mild criminal activities and petty robberies. It’s a road movie with characters who know they can’t run forever but want to have as much fun as possible along the way.

Jesus isn’t actually as over-the-top as he could be, and Turturro, who serves as writer and director of this spin-off that is also a remake of the 1974 French film “Going Places,” makes him into a decent protagonist who isn’t purely comedic. Cannavale is also more toned-down and likeable than usual, and Tautou, a French actress known for “Amélie” and “A Very Long Engagement,” is the one milking her scenes most for comedy as the sexually curious wild card accompanying these two men on their wandering saga. The film is styled and colored in a manner that evokes a different time, and this often outrageous trip feels wonderfully immersive. Despite mostly negative reviews, this film is actually quite an entertaining diversion, and may satisfy those who aren’t counting for a bowling match or a John Goodman cameo.


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