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Review: The Jesus Rolls (2020)

The Jesus Rolls (2020)

Directed by: John Turturro

Premise: A spinoff of The Big Lebowski and a loose remake of Going Places. Jesus Quintana (John Turturro) is released from prison and reunites with old friends (Bobby Cannavale and Audrey Tautou). They set out on a road trip with no final destination in mind.

What Works: There is an anarchic quality to The Jesus Rolls that is somewhat admirable. The filmmakers eschew some of the formalities of mainstream moviemaking especially in the narrative which is mostly a series of disconnected events. The end credits reveal that The Jesus Rolls was based on the 1974 film Going Places and this movie feels like an attempt to make a contemporary version of films from the late 1960s and early 70s like Five Easy Pieces or Midnight Cowboy. Filmmaker John Turturro and his cast take a few risks and at the very least The Jesus Rolls is unlike anything in mainstream American cinema at the moment. 

What Doesn’t: The Jesus Quintana character originally appeared in the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski. Aside from its title character, The Jesus Rolls has virtually nothing to do with the 1998 film. This movie is not fan service and it was not made with the Lebowski cult in mind. The fact that The Jesus Rolls is a bit of a bait and switch is not inherently bad. The problem is that this movie does not have much else going on in it. Tuturro’s Jesus Quintana character appeared in just a few scenes of The Big Lebowski and he was the kind of quirky and colorful side character that the Coens do so well. But Jesus Quintana was little more than a cameo and there’s not enough to this character to justify building a movie around him. He’s not interesting and the film doesn’t expand our understanding of him. We know about as much about Jesus Quintana after eighty-five minutes of this movie as we did after his handful of scenes in The Big Lebowski. Jesus meets some other colorful characters but no one else is particularly interesting either. Nearly every character in The Jesus Rolls is a cartoon character and they have as much depth. The one exception is Audrey Tautou’s role as Marie, a woman who is free with her body but is also disconnected from it. But Marie isn’t given much to do except be an accessory in the lives of these men. The narrative of The Jesus Rolls is a series of coincidences and other disconnected events. Road movies typically have a looser narrative structure but The Jesus Rolls isn’t about anything. It’s just a bunch of wacky antics that’s not leading anywhere.

DVD extras: Commentary track.

Bottom Line: The Jesus Rolls squanders a colorful character on an empty and uninspired road movie. There’s not enough holding this film together in terms of plot, character, or theme. It’s not much of a follow up to The Big Lewbowski nor does it have anything fresh to offer.

Episode: #810 (July 26, 2020)