Tribeca 2011: “Jesus Henry Christ,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Jesus Henry Christ,” Reviewed (photo)

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When Dennis Lee made his first film a few years back called “Fireflies in the Garden,” he made one brilliant hiring decision. It wasn’t Ryan Reynolds or Willem Dafoe, who both starred in the film, but rather the cinematographer Danny Moder, who had but a few credits as a DP to his name and also a wife named Julia Roberts, who took a supporting role in the drama. As it stands, the film has never been released in America, the first of Roberts’ never to do so – and to be fair, the company with the film’s rights went belly up, which had the unintended consequence of making “Jesus Henry Christ” Lee’s debut in his home country, though it may very well be seen by just as few people.

While Roberts doesn’t actually appear onscreen in “Jesus Henry Christ,” it’s her production company (Red OM Films) that made it and should be mentioned, not because it’s intended to be mean to Ms. Roberts or anyone involved, but it goes a long way towards explaining how a disaster like this comes into being. Granted, it was based on a Student Academy Award-winning film by Lee as a Columbia grad student, but without Roberts’ involvement, this film wouldn’t be able to cast Toni Collette and Michael Sheen only to waste them, it would lose its provocative but ultimately empty title, and most likely sit somewhere in the middle of the pile of scripts that holds up the weak end of a producer’s desk. (If it’s of any comfort, Roberts does see a return on her investment in Moder since the film’s visuals are its one redeeming quality.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and that’s perhaps because I’m at a loss for how to describe “Jesus Henry Christ.” Maybe a good place to start is the Post-it notes. Multicolored and arranged perfectly around the office of Dr. Slavin O’Hara (Sheen), they may be the best encapsulation of what the film is. You see O’Hara may or may not be the paternal father of Henry (Jason Spevack), a genius child with a photographic memory that has come to seek him out since the only question he doesn’t have an answer for is how he was actually conceived. His mother Patricia (Collette) was a bra-burner in her day, not to mention a daughter who saw her mother burned to a crisp when her father doused her with alcohol in a birthday cake-related incident when she was 10, so she conceived via test tube to avoid males completely.

Now, Henry’s ten himself and she lacks the fire to keep him from searching for his biological father. He doesn’t have to look far as he discovers O’Hara’s book “Born Gay or Made That Way?” and O’Hara in a local bookstore. Conveniently, as a professor at a nearby university, O’Hara doesn’t look far for his subjects, either. His first book was based on studying his daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein), who’s mercilessly teased at school as being a “lesbo” after its publication. Once again O’Hara pulls out the Post-it notes for Henry because he lacks the memory to document the wunderkind otherwise.

But Lee has an ulterior motive for the Post-it notes, which are used ultimately to stage a climactic scene where during a storm where O’Hara flings open his office’s windows so that the Post-it notes can swirl around the professor like a rainbow. It isn’t the only 360° shot in the film – the first time the full quartet goes out for lunch, the camera goes round and round the table to document their clear unease with each other, though the main reason your head will spin is from all the BS psychobabble thrown in the direction of the audience.

However, all this motion doesn’t actually move the film forward, nor do digressions like visits with a jive-talking, dashiki-wearing white secretary at the sperm bank, a 10-minute conversation between Henry and his American grandfather in Spanish, or references to Jonathan Frazen being a hack. To Lee, they share the colors of the Post-it notes, bright pastels that burst in every direction, but exist only as messy individual thoughts that never coalesce into a whole.

Mistaking style for substance, “Jesus Henry Christ” would seem to want to tell the story of a makeshift family brought together by unusual circumstance, but the film only winds up pulling them apart, allowing each character to exist only in their private world where they can be a collection of quirks and insecurities rather than identifiable human beings who could possibly relate to each other or anyone else. When the film’s ending finally rolls around with a completely out-of-context admonishment to “Be the change we want to see in the world,” it becomes a sad self-reflexive commentary on how a film that tries so hard to be different ends up being so very average and one that isn’t memorable even with a stack of Post-its.

“Jesus Henry Christ” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play the Tribeca Film Festival on April 27th and 30th.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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