Character actor John Turturro has a director’s sensitivity as lively and eccentric as his stage camera. His 2007 “Romance 039;Cigarettes” was a sweating working class jukebox musical, while his 2014 “Fading Gigolo” featured Turturro as a male prostitute and Woody Allen as a pimp.
However, the premise of “The Jesus Rolls”, his new writing, staging and showcasing the effort, may well have emerged from a feverish dream. Here, Turturro revives the famous purple-clad bowling virtuoso who he embodied in “The Big Lebowski”, the 1998 film by the Coen brothers. It’s quite unusual, but there is more. Some may remember “Going Places”, the once famous black comedy by Bertrand Blier from 1974, in which the young and healthy Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere play some aggressive sexual roustabouts that roam the French coast. Here, Turturro places “The Jesus” in the main role of a sometimes loose, sometimes direct remake of this film.
In a little not completely skilful of historical cinematographic revisionism at its beginnings, “The Jesus Rolls” renounces the status of problematic sexual offender of the character. Which does not mean that this Jesus is an angel. At the exit of Sing Sing, he tries to seduce his best friend, Petey (Bobby Cannavale, in oaf maximum friendly mode), and steals a muscle car.
The duo picks up an old girlfriend of Jesus, Mary. Played with an exuberant lack of inhibition by Audrey Tautou, Marie’s casual attitude towards consent and partnership goes hand in hand with her insensitivity. Which detonates Petey and Jesus as the trio roams Long Island, Port Chester and other scenic spots in New York. These are shot for maximum lyric effect – there are enough enjoyable lake views to put together a credible TV ad “I love New York” – by Frederick Elmes.
In Blier’s photo, the wandering males were in their twenties; Turturro and Cannavale are obviously not. Yet they are credible as irresponsible schemers led by their genitals. Maybe that says something about men in general. (It should be noted that as graphic as this remake is sometimes, it is considerably attenuated compared to the French film.)
The film bounces mainly fueled by a madness that switches between kind and sinister. When Susan Sarandon appears in the role of a released prisoner (a character played by Jeanne Moreau in the film Blier), “The Jesus Rolls” is declined in a more truly daring territory, offering an emotionally convincing candor about aging and loneliness . After which, it returns to licentious goofball mode. The movie doesn’t always work, but it’s never boring.
The Jesus Rolls
Classified R for themes, language, nudity, sexuality, violence, you name it. Duration: 1 hour 25 minutes.