In this remake of a French movie, John Turturro revisits his Big Lebowski character, but can’t find any of the originality or charm
The Jesus Rolls
Starring: John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou
Directed by: John Turturro
Running time: 85 minutes
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
By Jay Stone
The Dude abides, but it’s hard to bear The Jesus Rolls, a spin-off — get it? — of the Coen Brothers bowling film The Big Lebowski.
Okay, it’s not really a bowling film, but one of its memorable characters is an aggressively sexual bowler named Angel Quintana, played by John Turturro in a glittery pantsuit that was just made for strutting. Angel is given to licking his bowling ball prior to rolling a strike, a performance that upends the idea of a companionable Saturday night down at the 10-pin lanes.
Now, 22 years later, Jesus resurfaces in a movie all his own, itself a remake of a 1974 French entry called Going Places. That film, notable for its almost total lack of bowling, told the story of two small-time French crooks (one played by a young Gerard Depardieu) who hook up with a hairstylist and ramble here and there, having a lot of sex. The hairstylist is distinguished by the fact that she cannot achieve an orgasm, a personality trait that might be unique in French cinema.
The new version, both starring and directed by Turturro, is a ramshackle road film that has nothing to do with The Big Lebowski, really, except for the pantsuit and the strut. There’s a scene where Turturro licks a bowling ball, but frankly, the novelty has worn off and the nostalgia value is pretty low.
The movie is set long after the Lebowski years. Angel, having been jailed for some sexual misunderstanding, is released and hooks up with his friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale), who’s waiting for him at the prison gates. They immediately resume their life of petty theft, stealing a vintage car from an angry hairdresser (John Hamm, giving almost exactly the same performance as his would-be Canadian in a series of amusing TV commercials) and end up running off with his perky assistant Marie (Audrey Tautou.)
They meet a series of oddball characters, played by such luminaries as Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Sonia Braga and Tim Blake Nelson — one gets the impression that Turturro rounded up a bunch of friends to help with a long-gestating passion project — to steal things, make love with one another, and race off to their next non-adventure with a disconcerting lack of panache. It’s no surprise that The Jesus Rolls is a riff on a French film: it has the same loose-limbed, pointless air of self-indulgence that can sneak into the Nouvelle Vague if you’re not vigilant.
The most interesting thing about The Jesus Rolls is the way director Turturro has allowed his characters to grow old appropriately. Angel still has his cocky walk, but he has a sadness around the eyes that makes you wonder about the passion he is really bringing to the French kissing of his bowling ball. Cannavale, meanwhile, is unabashedly plump and Tautou has aged past the gamine charm of Amelie and now seems slightly unhinged rather than pixieish.
It’s sort of depressing actually. “Nobody f—s with the Angel,” Turturro’s character says in Lebowski. He should have listened.
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