Within hours of being released from New York’s infamous Sing Sing prison, Jesus Quintana (as played by John Turturro) is already embarking on a crime spree. Boosting a car of a narcissistic hairdresser (as played by Jon Hamm), he steals away his girlfriend too (Audrey Tautou) and together with his friend Petey (another great turn by Bobby Cannavale), the three of them freewheel through a series of illegal capers whilst trying to find their place in life.
…The car door’s open and you can step inside, but if you’re expecting a Coen Brothers continuation, then you’ve picked the wrong fare.
In short, this isn’t The Big Lebowski Part Deux and nor is it trying to be. A bit like Solo: A Star Wars Story, the enjoyment of this film lies in your ability to sever the past from casting a shadow on this film’s future. The Coen Brothers did not write the script and have no active involvement in it, albeit allowing John Turturro to take the character of Jesus Quintana out for a one-off drive. And for the first half-hour, it pretty much goes at a thousand miles an hour.
This is not to say that editing is all MTV nor the gorgeous camera work lighting by Frederick Elmes is all Paul Greengrass. No, far from it. Jesus’s trademark purple creeps into every composition and the light caresses the A-list of talent that Turturro has assembled. Joining John Turturro, Audrey Tatou and Boyb Carnavale you have walk-ons by Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken and Pete Davidson and the lingering delight that is Susan Sarandon playing the cryptically titled “767” and the further you go into it, the less a hold Walter, Donny and The Dude had on me.
Instead of trying to pay homage or extend the lore of The Big Lebowski, The Jesus Rolls veers into a French sex comedy by its half way point. Endearingly inept both as people and lovers, the amiable, central menage à trois that is Jesus, Marie and Petey ricochet off each other and the film’s lean-to plot which draws as much inspiration from Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise as it is Bertrand Blier’s Les Valseuses upon which the script is based.
Mostly whimsical, and occasionally whip-smart with its dialogue, The Jesus Rolls has an open-minded approach to sex and the boundaries that normally confine affection. Leaving you with an excess of misplaced riches by its end, the film doesn’t really know what to do with the characters it’s so deeply in love with. Jesus never knows where he’s going and neither you and in this free-wheeling French sex comedy transposed onto US shores, but then it’s kinda beside the point and against the spirit of what director John Turturro is reaching for.
With no real plot devices to pay-off by its end, this is a spin-off that simply runs out of gas and leaves you by the roadside. Provided you can surrender yourself to casual charms, this is a film that many will struggle with. Saying that though, had Turutrro tried to directly ape the Coen Brothers style, I bet they’d be a lot more who’d have trouble with that.
There it is. The car door’s open and you can step inside, but if you’re expecting a Coen Brothers continuation, then you’ve picked the wrong fare.