The Jesus Rolls
- Eddie Harrison
- 16 March 2020
Star John Turturro takes the helm of this disappointing spin-off from The Big Lebowski
On paper, a spin-off from the Coen brothers' 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski is an intriguing prospect. John Turturro's bowling champion Jesus Quintana was a memorable part of that movie's universe, with the actor himself responsible for much of the characterisation. Unfortunately, like some of Turturro's other efforts as director (Illuminata, Romance & Cigarettes), The Jesus Rolls goes downhill after a sprightly start; the writer-director-star indulges himself, as well as the rest of his cast.
It begins when Jesus gets out of jail, where he's served time for exposing himself to a child. He pals up with Petey (Bobby Cannavale), but a violent altercation with hairdresser Paul Dominique (Jon Hamm) leaves Petey in need of medical attention. Somehow, these two misfits attract a third wheel in the form of Marie (Audrey Tautou), and they form a messy ménage à trois. Already on the wrong side of the law, the men ditch Marie and hook up with Jean (Susan Sarandon), freshly out of the joint herself and with issues of her own.
If the synopsis sounds familiar, then that's because the film is based on Bertrand Blier's 1974 French hit Going Places (Les Valseuses). That film caused a sensation with its sexual frankness, but represented the mores of a specific time and place. The Jesus Rolls harks back to 1970s misogyny, casually celebrating outdated clichés – insatiable women, macho camaraderie – and features a lawless backwater setting that simply doesn't seem credible in 2020.
Filmed back in 2016 with no input from the Coens, a good idea in theory turns out to be a bad idea in practice. Despite a remarkable cast (Christopher Walken, Pete Davidson, Tim Blake Nelson and Sônia Braga also appear), The Jesus Rolls falters repeatedly on the comedy, drama and pathos fronts. It doesn't quite end up in the gutter but it's still far from a strike.
Available on demand from Mon 23 Mar.