It tells you something about a man when he can't even narrate his own story. Billy Cruddup's hero in Jesus's Son recounts his life in the same manner in which he lives it--in starts and fits. He sets up a structure only to go off on a tangent, winding deeper into the story before finally getting back to his initial point (if he gets back to it at all). He fails to include key moments, like when he finds out out his girlfriend is pregnant, and instead mentions them later in passing while talking about another scene.
The character, identified only as FH in reference to the derisive nickname by which everyone calls him, drifts through the world in the same way he drifts through his voice-over. He and his girlfriend are heroine addicts, but in FH's case it seems more like a symptom of aimlessness than the cause of it. Jesus' Son, then, operates as a sort of collage of the moments that stick in his memory and define the poignant melancholy of his existence.
Director Alison Maclean differentiates the film from other drug movies by placing less emphasis on the drugs themselves. The sordid details are there hinted at, but they aren't the story that FH wants to tell. She balances bleak humor with the longing of a man who has never been able to hold onto what he wants. The film's greatest asset is knowing when to leave things unsaid and trust the audience to put the pieces together.
Cruddup adds a friendly tone to the spacey narration, speaking like a nice fellow at a coffee shop, sharing his story to pass the time. The performance, which came shortly before Cruddup's work in Almost Famous remains some of hit finest work.
But Cruddup's isn't the film's only notable performance. The great Samantha Morton plays Michelle, FH's girlfriend and the only person who really makes a consistent impression on his life. Everyone else just seems to come and go, and the revolving cast includes Jack Black, Dennis Leary and Dennis Hopper. Black has one of the most memorable roles as FH's coworker at a late-night hospital that you definitely don't want to provide your healthcare. Black's closing line at the end of a scene involving a particularly screwed patient is priceless.
The film is a bit uneven, but that's a nearly inevitable byproduct of its design. Nearly a decade after its original release, it's still an oddly moving, fascinating and distinct work of cinema.
The disc presents the feature in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with a satisfactory anamorphic transfer. The vivid colors are strong, the image is sharp and there aren't any major compression issues. The transfer has a few dust specs and damage marks here and there, but is overall quite nice. Obviously a new edition with a Blu-ray companion would be nice, but this release isn't about grand improvements.