Your Netflix Instant Weekend: JESUS’ SON, JUST LIKE THE SON, and more

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
April 14th, 2011

An interesting thing happened this week. The best movies added to Netflix's Instant service all seemed to be road movies. Sure there were plenty of dramas, comedies, sci-fi actioners, Westerns, and even an iconic softcore porn added, but when I looked through all the potential movies to highlight, I landed on two movies about travels. Maybe it's the spring air and my desire to inspire you to go out and enjoy the sun before it gets too hot, or perhaps I just have a soft spot for real and metaphorical journeys.

Whatever the case may be, this week we will look at an episodic story of a junkie with an unfortunate nickname and a film about a very unlikely friendship solidified by a crime.


Fully titled JESUS' SON: THE FUNNY LIFE OF FUCKHEAD in Germany, this film is a loose adaptation of a collection of short stories by Denis Johnson. Director Alison Maclean connects the vignettes by turning the film into a quasi-road movie that follows its narrator and protagonist FH or "Fuckhead" (Billy Crudup) as he goes about his life, meets his girlfriend Michelle (Samantha Morton), falls into a cycle of drug abuse, and courses towards redemption. Along his journey he meets a wide variety of oddball characters played Dennis Hopper, Holly Hunter, Denis Leary, and a scene-stealing Jack Black (before anyone was tired of him). Crudup and Morton are incredible in their roles and all the supporting cast members take command of their various episodes within the film. Maclean strikes a wonderful balance- the film is best described as a dark comedy but it does not shy away from the not-so-glamorous realities of drug use, both physically and emotionally. JESUS' SON, with its appropriately gritty treatment of substance abuse combined with an endearing sense of humor, may have come at the end of the decade, but it's one of my favorite '90s indies.


When 20-year-old delinquent Daniel (Mark Webber) is given community service after a botched robbery he finds himself doing janitorial work at a NYC elementary school. Working his way onto the good side of the principal- who notices Daniel's way of connecting with children- he's offered the opportunity to read to the children of a first grade class. This begins a friendship with 6-year-old Boone, a future troubled youth who opens up to Daniel after school about troubles at home. When Boone is moved to a different foster home and disappears from school, Daniel orchestrates a rescue that, in realistic terms, is a kidnapping. Together they hit the road to home of Daniel's sister in Dallas.

What could have been an obnoxiously saccharine story turns into a powerful look at friendship, preconceived notions, and perspective. Carried by Webber and a rather revelatory performance by Antonio Ortiz as Boone, JUST LIKE THE SON works best when the pair are together, simultaneously at odds with each other, themselves, and the law- despite their noble intentions to be in harmony in all cases. Director Morgan J. Freeman lets the script and the actors do the heavy lifting, a minimal budget is used to good effect. There is much to learn from these characters but it is, thankfully, never forced and, in the end and like the best kind of cinema, one feels in touch with the lives on screen in unexpected ways. (Availble in HD)

The Wildcard - HEARTLESS

I missed this film when it played Fantastic Fest last year and I'm glad I'm finally getting a chance to check it out. There's a whole lot of WTF going on in that trailer and I don't think I want to know any more about the film before I hit 'play'. The visual style intrigues me as does the apparent subject matter. This I'll be watching very soon. (Available in HD)

If you're looking for more...

Another road movie, ETIENNE!, is a slight film about a man who takes his pet hamster (recently diagnosed with cancer) on a road trip to experience the world. FOUR LIONS, the first Drafthouse Films release, is a carefully balanced comedy about suicide bombers. Claire Denis' Africa-set drama, WHITE MATERIAL, is now available. PERTH is a gritty look at a retiree who wants nothing more than to escape from Singapore to Western Australia and is written and directed by a man known only as Djinn. EYES WIDE OPEN is the story of an married, ultra-orthodox Jewish man who is led to question every aspect of his life when he falls for a young, male student. RICKY is a odd film about a French couple and their extraordinary baby. EMMANUELLE is as classic as softcore porn film can be and inspired an incredible number of sequels (both official and unofficial). If you like jazz, check out the wonderful documentary ICONS AMONG US. When an assassin rides into town, paranoia sweeps over everyone harboring secrets in NO NAME ON THE BULLET, a wonderful late '50s western. Finally, if all else fails and you are the one person who doesn't own it on some form of home video, THE TERMINATOR was added.

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