Written and Directed by John Turturro
Starring John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson, Susan Sarandon, Sônia Braga, J.B. Smoove, Tim Blake Nelson
When The Big Lebowski hit the world in 1998, it brought with it a whole cast of characters that screamed for more exploration. One such character was Turturro’s The Jesus, who is described as “a pederast” as he licks the ball he is licking is about to be rolled down the bowling lane. While the Coen’s never did follow up, Turturro secured their blessing to further explore The Jesus and turned that opportunity to pay tribute to another film he loves, the 1974 film Going Places. The result is something that serves to explain his treasured and mysterious character to the point to where it becomes less mysterious and thereby less treasured.
What is special about the French film is not entirely clear. Turturro’s script appears to be a pretty faithful. In essence, it is about the aimlessness that convicts have upon leaving prison. There is a lot of leaving prison in this film. As for The Jesus, nothing much may have changed. He is still depraved sexually (though definitely not a pederast). He immediately begins the process – along with his friend Petey (Cannavale) – of stealing cars and finding new partners / accomplices, including (at times) Tautou, Sarandon and Davidson.
The film amounts to a realization that The Jesus is a decent guy, aside from the aforementioned stealing of cars and sexual deviance. Even the latter is explained in a way that makes him seem like a real champ. The ensuing road trip becomes a circular journey that doesn’t end up anywhere.
Part of the problem is that none of the characters are even remotely as interesting or funny as The Jesus. They all seem to key off of his word, even when he’s got no real plan.
The one interesting character aside from The Jesus is Sarandon’s somber take as Jean. I have not seen her this invested in a character since her Oscar turn in Dead Man Walking.
If you watch, it’s not like you are losing much. None of the characters are horribly drawn. They are nice, if forgettable. Those looking to connections from the first film, there is plenty of Gypsy Kings on the soundtrack. Other than this, the movie just serves to let us know Turturro connects one of his most famous characters to his love of an aimless French film.
Oh, but don’t we all.
(**1/2 out of *****)