Clowning around: Jesus Rolls too merrily along



My first instinct is to say that Jesus Rolls was an insufferable waste and shunt it down the bottom of the "best however many films" list that I don't actually keep. More than 20 years after the Big Lebowski traipsed into theaters and the dude plodded into the hearts and minds of people, mostly men, everywhere, nestling into their psyches with maxims and mottos, a related-film has come to pass and the Jesus has been resurrected — but without The Dude, Walter, or Donny (RIP) or the help of those who conjured them. The film is neither directed nor produced by the Coen brothers, and doesn’t purport to be either. Jesus himself, John Turturro, helms the film, a plaintive meandering road movie stripped of dank SoCal exhalations but not without its own shenanigans. Dude acolytes beware. 


Technically this is an origin story. “He served 6 months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight year old… When he moved to Hollywood, he had to go door to door to tell everyone he was a pederast.” Chino is actually Sing Sing, and the exposure accidental and prolonged at a public urinal as Jesus Quintana explains it, allowing him to maintain his dignity and amicability as a character. 


Released from prison, the reedy man tumbles back into a lilting life of crime with the kind of inevitable banal ease that comes with opening the fridge and plucking out a snack. He steals a car from a hairdresser (Jon Hamm, the first of many startling celebrity appearances) with neither relish nor reluctance. He’s accompanied by his puckish buddy Petey (Bobby Canavale, another Italian American), rendering this a premature grandpas-gone-wild movie (Last Vegas orGoing in Style) in the vein of Youth but less saintly. The difference is the men here don’t need to measure up against each other or a prove a thing. And so Jesus and Peter bop merrily along, road-tripping down and out on Long Island and the Hudson Valley.


Their journey has the airs of a European jaunt. The movie’s improbable and inspired source material is an older French film Going Places (dir. Bertrand Bleier), which I haven’t seen, so cannot tell you in honesty whether it's an apt approximation. However, that that movie is from the 70s may explain the outdated gender-politics here. Quintana’s mother is a whore (freaking Sonia Braga) and rounding out the gang of thieves is a petite French maiden who can’t come. She’s played by Audrey Tatou, clowning around in embarrassment, seemingly hired and instructed to act as stereotypically French as possible.