Ink to Film Podcast: Ep 77- Jesus’ Son (1999 Film)

Note: The Ink to Film Podcast is conversational and intended to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, if able, for tone and inflection. Our transcripts are generated using a transcriptionist but may contain errors. Please refer to the corresponding audio before quoting anything written here.

This episode aired on February 21, 2019 and was made possible by our generous Patreons. 

Luke: Welcome to the Ink to Film podcast, where we read the book…

James: …and then see the movie.

James: I’m James.

Luke: And I’m Luke.

James: And this week, we discuss Allison Maclean’s 1999 film, Jesus’ Son. <music plays>

All right, I’m sufficiently blown away. I was not expecting much from this and then…having not heard of it, I was really expecting something and got something pretty different. What did you think of the film?

Luke: Well, first off, I was proud of you. Your outline of the kind of film you would make, I thought was pretty close to what this was. Maybe not quite as bizarre as maybe I was imagining, but the title cards, being very faithful, going through and almost showing each story as its own mini-movie, they kind of did that. Er, you know, Allison Maclean did, and I was kind of blown away. 

James: I gotta say, those title cards, when they started showing up, I was like, “Yes, you have to do this.” It makes it so…for some reason, there’s something about title cards in a film like this that just gives it this gravitas and makes it feel…each thing feel very distinctly important and like a section of the movie. I think the movie I was thinking was going to be a lot darker, and I think we’ll talk about that, but it was more lighthearted than I was expecting. 

Luke: Really?

James: I think just the tone was a lot lighter, and I think you were kind of picking up on that from the book more than I was. 

Luke: Right. The humor.

James: The humor, and the lighter sense to it. Whereas, I was thinking it was definitely a story about addiction. I felt like the movie…it was very interesting, because the movie didn’t focus on the drugs. Just like the book didn’t. And you pointed that out, I think, in the last episode. But I was, for some reason I was so focused on the drugs because it’s such a big portion of this. I feel like the story is clearly centered around drugs and addiction. So, I think it was interesting when seeing the movie to see how far from the drugs it kind of was. 

Luke: Yeah. You know, I wonder if part of it is the cinematography, because I found the movie to be extremely…uh, bright. Almost sort of…I don’t know, for whatever reason, it felt very 90s to me. Obviously, it was made in the 90s, and it felt that way. I was thinking back, and there’s not a lot of…and I’m talking about the lighting. There weren’t a lot of dark scenes. Most of them were very saturated in light. So, I wonder if that adds that feeling of it being not as dark. I don’t know. 

James: I think you’re onto something there. I think there is something with the lighting that it kind of screams romantic comedy, or like a lighter tone to it. Whereas, I was expecting Requiem for a Dream, like very dark and dramatic and cinematic. And there are some very cinematic moments in this movie, but…

Luke: That was a 90s movie, as well, right?

James: I think it was like 2000. It was right there. Right at the cusp.

Luke: So, that would definitely be a contemporary, then. Yeah, I don’t know. So, there’s that and then there’s…yeah, there were humorous moments. It does…they did thread the Michelle relationship all the way through and make it definitely much more of a…the plot was centered around his relationship to Michelle, for the most part. And that is not really so in the book, in my opinion.

James: Umhmm…I think that was the filmmaker’s way of kind of grounding this a little more for a general audience.

Luke: Yeah. 

James: Like, I think that through-line makes it more palatable as a film.

Luke: Absolutely.

James: And I think that it worked, and I think it was interesting, but I think it also lost a little bit of what made the book feel so unique.

Luke: So, there’s a scatteredness to the story in the book that, I think, lead you as a reader to search for your own through-lines, because you aren’t given something to latch onto and say, “Okay, this is a story about a relationship between these two characters.” Instead, you’re going, “What is this book about?” And so, I think it forces you to search for more of those existential thoughts that we talked about in the last episode as being more of that through-line. Now, that leads me to another point about this movie. It feels to me like it is a movie that is an interp…it’s like they had an interpretation of the text, and they wanted to film something that represented their interpretation of the book. But I don’t know if their interpretation is necessarily the only one. I think it is a possible interpretation of the text, but I think it was deliberately written in a way that is more broad than that, or maybe just more ambiguous than that. In some ways, the movie felt heavy-handed to me with some of these things. Some of these, like, religious allegories that were going on. That was certainly present in the book, but it felt very like, “This is the point we’re trying to make here.” You know, “Recognize this,” and…I don’t know. I guess it’s one of those things, maybe it was just for broader audiences, like you said. And they decided to go that route to appeal to people who didn’t read the source material or something. I don’t know.

James: I think, in a book it’s easier to kind of, because you’re not physically seeing it, it’s easier to kind of thread in some allegory or some details that will eventually lead to people interpreting in certain ways, and part of a film is you’re showing somebody something, and it’s more, like, concrete. In order to show religious allegory sometimes, and this isn’t necessarily always the case…there are filmmakers who can do it very subtly and deftly…you know, if you show a cross, that’s an easy way of pushing toward religion in some way. That’s the shorthand way to do it in a film. And without it, I think it’s harder to plant the seeds. For interpretation, sometimes. 

Luke: Yeah. There’s a moment where my reaction is, “I don’t know if this is a little bit too far…they went a little bit too far here.” But then I realized that me five or ten years ago probably wouldn’t even have noticed it. It’s just that I’m more hyper-aware of these things. But he’s in a restaurant, and he turns to look out the window, and they frame it so that when he turns to look out the window, they’re on the outside of the window, looking in, and there is a vine with literally thorns on it, and like petals, and it’s draped across his forehead. Which I thought, “Okay, Christ allegory there.” Right? Like, obviously. 

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: And what that means for this story, I think, is definitely open to interpretation, but…in the moment, I was like, “I don’t know about that. It’s a little too obvious.” And then I kind of backed off because I was like, I think I’m just hyperaware of these things now. I probably would have never noticed that like five or ten years ago.

James: Are you saying in terms of your experience, or in terms of when this movie came out? Because I do think there’s something to be said for this movie coming out in ’99. 

Luke: Oh, I meant more of my own personal growth as someone who pays attention to these kinds of subtleties in film.

James: The reason I bring up the 1999 thing is, I think that it does…I think that this movie today would be much different, clearly. But I also think that, for its time, I was able to put myself in the shoes of somebody watching it in 1999, and I appreciated it even more. And I do want to say…I feel like so far we’ve kind of touched on some negatives…but I do want to say that, I think that, all in all, this movie did a good job of getting the essence of what’s in the book and doing it justice. I think that it’s a solid film, and I’m happy that I’ve seen it now, because I don’t know that I ever would have seen it without the podcast. I didn’t hear of it, and nobody had ever recommended it to me or anything.  

Luke: You know, I agree with that. I guess I’ve just…we talked about it in the last episode if you haven’t listened to it. The book is a very important book for me. And it’s a beloved book in many ways. So, I was a little bit of that, you know, cliché book reader going into this. Kind of arms folded, going “All right, let’s see this movie adaptation.”

James: Right.

Luke: You know, I was a little bit of that, I’ll admit. So, maybe some of this stuff I’m being a little hypercritical or, you know, not giving them enough of the benefit of the doubt, but I agree. I think it was, ultimately, a good movie. Solid adaptation. The one thing I wish I had was somebody…because my wife didn’t watch it with me. This isn’t really her sort of thing. But I wish I had someone who was, like, watching it with me who hadn’t read the book. Because I am curious to know what you think of this film having no knowledge…maybe even no knowledge it was based on a book.

James: I was absolutely going to bring that up, because I think that’s another reason I enjoyed the film as much as I do. Because with the context and some of the subtleties you were talking about, and interpretation you can bring to it, I think you can kind of pick up on more than just the stuff that’s surface-level allegory, and I think there is some stuff to dig into that isn’t necessarily there. I think it did a good job of having contemplative moments and letting the film breathe, and kind of showing our characters growing, not just through the dialogue. And I applaud them for that, because I think that’s huge for this story, and to see that done well is really cool.

Luke: Yeah, I agree with that. I think there was…they tackled a lot of the books darker moments pretty well. We see the…obviously, the rabbit’s in “Emergency.” There’s Dennis Leary’s character in his overdose, which I thought was brilliantly done with the side-by-side. There’s a couple of moments, which I think they tackled really well, and the gravity of it hits you when…which, by the way, we’re going to do full spoilers for this movie, right out of the gates. So…okay, let me finish my thought, then I’ll return. But, yeah, basically, there is some really dark stuff in this movie, and I think they nailed a lot of those parts.

James: Yeah, I found myself nearing the end like, as we were into the third act…the end of the second and the beginning of the third. I started to feel the adaptation more. Like, I started to feel the influence of the filmmaker more than just the straight adaptation of the material that I felt in the early parts. And I think they did a pretty good job…the changes that they did make. And I think you’re right. Those heavier scenes are great to juxtapose with the early ones that are kind of like more zany and light and fun. To make this like a more well-rounded and full film. Because I feel like, without that stuff, if they didn’t go to the extremes that the book did, then obviously it wouldn’t have done justice to the source material.

Luke: For no reason, you just knocked loose something that I wanted to mention before I forget it. I watched the trailer for this movie. In the trailer, Fuckhead is peeping in at a woman, and he turns to the camera, and he says, “Oh, you think this is bad? I’ve done way worse than this.” And that is, basically…he says verbatim what is in the book. There’s a line in the book that is equivalent to that. That exchange isn’t in the movie. So, I thought it was interesting that they filmed it, and they put it in the trailer, you know? 

James: I feel like there’s a lot of that. I was…when we talked before, we both definitely wanted narration in a film adaptation of this book, and I was happy that they had it, and I thought it was really cool that they did just do line for line for some of that stuff. But I did want to mention…how did you feel when a character in dialogue in a scene would say something verbatim. Because I felt that to be a little jarring or cheesy sometimes.

Luke: No, I agree. There were times where I felt like it really could have benefited from sort of a reimagining of some of these. Because I do believe that there is an artistic difference between screenplay and fiction, especially when it comes to dialogue. And dialogue that plays well in a piece of prose fiction does not always play well in a film. Now, occasionally, you can hit it. Often, it’s just like one line you take directly out of the book. And then the rest of it is kind of in remix. We see this normally in our adaptations. But there were a couple exchanges where I was like, this is reading from the book as if it’s a script. Especially, I’m thinking of “Emergency,” when he’s…the doctor comes up and there’s like an exchange with the nurse and the orderly. And he’s getting on…he’s like, “Are you an orderly? Is this a hospital?” And, like, there was a…it went on for a while. I’m like, this is all verbatim from the book. And on one hand I understand maybe this is out of a desire to be extremely faithful, but at a certain point, I don’t know who this is serving because, as a book fan, I kind of wanted something different in there. Weirdly. I don’t know if all book fans would agree with that, but I did.

James: It’s worth it just to say it out loud a bunch of times and see if it’s natural on the day, on set, for sure. If we felt like it was jarring just from that one viewing that we had, I’m sure that on-set it felt a little bit like that, but they wanted to roll with it. And I think…again, I think that’s a cool idea. I applaud them for wanting to try it. And I just don’t think it worked out every time.

Luke: But, once again, we’re focusing on something negative. When, really, this is a pretty solid adaptation. A lot of good stuff in there. This is one of the only times I’ve seen somebody try and adapt, like, a collection of short stories. That’s very unusual, you know, to not see something that’s maybe a series where each episode is devoted to a short story in and of itself or something. But this is a collection of short stories put into a film, and I applaud Allison Maclean for being able to create a cohesive story around the Michelle character, to link her to a lot of these moments that were profound in our main character’s life. To make the story simultaneously about him and her for a lot of it, and then to still feel like it is doing justice to the original source material and leaving you with a…at least a 90% similar feeling. I don’t know if that’s being generous or not, but yeah, about a 90% similar feeling by the end? Like you’ve gone through a similar experience?

James: Yeah, I agree. I was just thinking about how difficult it would be to adapt this book, just in terms of deciding what to take out and what to add is a monumental feat, I feel like.

Luke: We talked about voice-over, and we said that we would have it, we would include it for this book…or, for this movie. Well, you said you would. And they definitely did. That was the first thing I liked about it, like, “All right, they’re going full voice-over here.” We, in fact, get most of the movie being narrated to us. Did you ever feel like it was too much? Like it was too much voice-over?

James: I didn’t…no, I didn’t notice that. Did you? Sounds like it. 

Luke: Yeah, so I kind of wanted them to back off on it a little bit. There’s beautiful language in the book, and I absolutely get the urge to fill in a lot of those exact lines, thoughts in the guy’s head that we can get right out of the book. But, at times it felt like it was taking away from the gravity of the scene, because it feels very removed whenever we have him thinking about it, and like remembering it. Versus letting the scene play out in its immediacy, just inform us. It felt…to me, it felt like it created a little bit of distance between me and what was going on. And you could argue that it’s that way in the book, but my counterargument is that I think it works better in fiction than it necessarily does in a film.

James: Yeah, I can see that. So, moving forward here, we are going to talk about the filmmaker, Allison Maclean, and then we’re going to talk about plot, just give a brief synopsis, and then talk about some details that stood out to us. But I definitely also want to touch on cast, so I think we’ll do that in between those two things. 

Luke: So, speaking of plot, we’re definitely going to do a brief plot discussion here, and that’s because we had a pretty hefty episode last week, and ultimately the plot is pretty dang similar to the book. So, what I think we’re going to have to do is focus more on the differences…the things that were changed. But we won’t get into everything that happens. So, yeah, I do recommend you go back and listen to that episode if you want to know more of the plot of this thing, and what we thought about maybe some of the intricacies of the story.

James: So, Allison Maclean is the filmmaker here. She is a Canadian film director of music videos, short films, television commercials, and feature films. Her first short film, Kitchen Sink, a surreal suburban nightmare, debuted in Cannes in 1989 and won eight international awards. Maclean moved to New York in 1992. Her film, Crush, was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. After several years developing projects, she got her second feature, Jesus’ Son. It was awarded the Little Golden Lion Award and the Ecumenical Award at the 1999 Venice Film Festival. It was named one of the Top Ten Films of the Year by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Roger Ebert, among others. 

Luke: This movie, or was that for Crush?

James: That was this movie. 

Luke: This movie? Okay. It was named one of the best movies of the year?

James: By…yeah, by New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Roger Ebert, who…and I love Roger Ebert.

Luke: I actually thought this movie flew more under the radar than that. I’m surprised to hear that.

James: Well, I think that it did.

Luke: I think it’s deserved. I just…I didn’t know that it got the recognition.

James: I think that it did fly under the radar. I think it was like, it went through the festivals, it did well in the festivals, and a lot of people really liked it, but I think it was, like, an  indie darling. It was a smaller film that didn’t spread wide and didn’t…wasn’t very successful wide, but…I mean if somebody like Roger Ebert says it’s one of the best movies of the year, clearly you did something right. 

Luke: Yeah, it seems like it could appeal to somebody who is looking for something new. Because, in a lot of ways, this movie did feel fresh and different. 

James: Especially for ’99. 1999. 

Luke: Yeah.

James: So, she did have another film recently. The Rehearsal came out in 2016. I haven’t seen it but, from what I understand…I was going through and reading some people’s thoughts here and there…apparently it was very artistic again. So, it was very arty, but I think…from what I understand, people felt like it was a little too much. There was a lot of art and not quite as much substance. So, it wasn’t a huge hit or anything, but she’s still directing features, which is good to hear.

Luke: Yeah, so…there was a huge jump there, it sounds like, though, from 1999 to 2016. 

James: During that bio piece there, I was talking about how she’s done television, she’s done Gossip Girl. She directed some of The Tudors. She’s done a lot of TV since Jesus’ Son and, right up until 2016, she directed The Rehearsal.

Luke: Okay.

James: So, something interesting about the production here. I don’t know if you noticed this or not. Maybe you saw it online, or maybe you did notice. The author of the book actually cameos in the film. Did you notice this?

Luke: Oh, actually I did. So, I read that back when I was doing research for Denis Johnson for our book episode. I saw…you know, it said, “Makes a cameo in Jesus’ Son as Terrance Weber,” who is the victim of the hunting knife through the eye.

James: Incredible. It was just…I saw him and didn’t know, and then when I was reading the credits, I saw his name, and I was like, “No way.” And then I looked into it.

Luke: Okay, so you didn’t know going in. Because when that scene came on, I knew already that it was him, so I was looking for it. 

James: No. That was so much fun. I looked really, really hard. I tried to find his reaction to the film or anything like that, but I couldn’t find anything. You talked about it on the book episode, he was famously a recluse, so he may not have had many public thoughts on it.

Luke: He probably didn’t talk about it a lot, yeah. It’s also kind of pre-Internet era, right? Where everything is picked apart, and there’s a million interviews, and everything’s on YouTube. It’s a little bit before that, right? And obviously this movie hasn’t gone on to have some immense cult following, I don’t think. So that’s why we chose it…such a popular <laughing> such a popular thing for us to do. But yeah, I mean it has a great cast, though. 

James: Yeah.

Luke: What’s the name of the actor who plays Michelle?

James: Her name is Samantha Morton. 

Luke: Samantha Morton. Okay, so extremely familiar. I must have seen her in some other stuff. 

James: I’ve got a couple of movies she was in if you want me to rattle them off. 

Luke: Yeah, let’s hear it. Then I’ll get to my point I was going to make about it.

James: She was in Minority Report.

Luke: Okay, yeah.

James: Is that the one?

Luke: Is she one of the…is she the precog?

James: I think that she is. Yeah, I just looked it up. She’s totally the precog. That was a good pull, dude.

Luke: Yeah, actually now that you said that, I can picture that character’s face and, like, that’s her. The whole point of me bringing her up is I think, to me, hers was the performance that shined through the most in my opinion. Billy Crudup, I think he was…good. If not necessarily excellent. 

James: I actually really, really…I thought that his performance was excellent. 

Luke: Okay, so I was just…I think he had moments of excellence, but there were other times where I struggled to connect with the emotion behind the things he was saying. Especially early on…

James: Things that he was saying within a scene or narration or, like, VO?

Luke: Yeah, so early on, like with “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” especially that initial thing we got, I don’t know. I just struggled to connect with him fully. And to kind of believe the emotion behind what he was saying. But, I think, as the movie progressed, I got more and more on board with it. And I do think there were moments of excellence. I don’t know if, throughout, I thought he was killing it in every scene. I don’t know. I totally get that it’s highly subjective. I’m not trying to say that my opinion is correct, you know. That’s just how I subjectively thought about it.

James: No, I got ya. We’ll talk about him in a second. But get back to Samantha Morton.

Luke: But yeah, Samantha Morton was, to me, the star of the movie. And it was cool because she was essentially an invented character. She was like a combination of multiple women in the book that none of them really have as much to do as she was given. And, I don’t know, she just really sold it. And, obviously, there’s that big dance she does to be introduced and captivating our main character, and captivating me, as well. I think she was a captivating character, a captivating performance, and every time she was in the scene with them, I think they had great chemistry. And it sold that relationship, and it sold the tragedy of what they go through and went through, and what ultimately happens to her obviously made it incredibly sad.

James: Yeah, I agree. I don’t want to completely say everything you just said, so I’ll agree with that. And then just say I think the way she was able to… She was able to portray every emotion in such a way that, I don’t know, I bought it the entire time and, like you said, she’s a made-up character for the film. I think that, to have that be the best character is kind of a huge feat. I thought she killed it.

Luke: So, one performance that I thought was just okay that I had been really looking forward to was Jack Black in “Emergency” as the orderly. And I think he does…there are certain things he does that he nails. I think part of it is…I read Emergency this most recent time knowing that Jack Black played Georgie, and so when I was reading it, I was actually picturing Jack Black saying the lines. And I think what I had imagined, when met with reality, in some ways it was almost a let-down. Like it wasn’t quite as Jack Black zany as I thought it might be. 

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: I also felt like he was a little stiffer in some ways than I’ve seen him be in other movies. So that, I think, comes back to the fact that, for the most part, they were saying word-for-word what was in the book. And so I’m wondering if some of this…think about Michelle’s character…one of the reasons why I felt so strongly about her character is because they gave her fresh lines, whereas a lot of what our main character says and a lot of what Georgie says is right out of the book, word for word.

James: I think you’re right. The fact that…I think every line that Georgie delivers is from the book. I can’t think of anything that he says that isn’t. And I think that, first of all, Jack Black is a national treasure. He’s an incredible improviser is the thing. 

Luke: Yeah.

James: So, for him to not be able to improvise fully and kind of be…I mean he was pretty funny in some of the interesting stuff he was doing, but you know, his quirky little…his introduction when he’s doing that squat thing, that had me cracking up. 

Luke: Yeah, he’s getting to use his…he has a physicality to him that is always funny, that he was able to kind of use in those scenes. 

James: But I agree, when you told me Jack Black was in it, I was expecting…and then you said it was Georgie, I was expecting something different.

Luke: Instead of being like the true highlight of the movie, he was just…I don’t know…he was good. He just wasn’t…he didn’t steal the movie to me, like I thought he might. I thought it might be like, “Oh, man, how great was Georgie in this movie?”

James: There’s so many actors in this movie, and like a bunch of them were cameos. This movie came out in ’99, so a lot of these cameos were from people we’ve seen in numerous roles since. 

Luke: Yeah.

James: And one that really stood out to me, and I think it’s just because I’m in love with this person, is Michael Shannon.

Luke: Yeah! Dundun, the killer.

James: Absolutely love Michael Shannon as a character actor, and he’s such a fascinating actor to me. He really brings this, like cold, quiet intensity while also having this rage in him. And he just seems dangerous, and that whole…I felt like he basically stole the movie.

Luke: I agree that he at least was a highlight.

James: I think it’s because I’m biased.

Luke: Yeah. No, I also share a similar love for him. I love that he had, like, a mop on his head in this role. <laughing>

James: Yeah.

Luke: I thought it was a pretty obvious wig. Which, then, somebody’s going to be like, “No, that was his real hair.” It looked like a wig, that’s all I can say. And it was funny to see him so young, right? But he’s still…his face is the same now as it is 20 years later. I don’t know. I really liked him, too. He does have…he has this dead-eye thing he can do.

James: He’s a shark.

Luke: Yeah, exactly. Like, he’s a shark. He’s capable of…you can see this character is capable of extreme violence. He does this really well. I really appreciated his performance in, what was it? Boardwalk Empire. Yeah, he’s really good in that. He’s good in a lot of the other stuff he’s in.

James: You’re not going to believe this, but that’s a gap for me. I haven’t seen Boardwalk Empire, and everybody tells me how much I should watch it.

Luke: Yeah, I mean I don’t think it’s one of the best shows to come out or anything like that, but really solid period piece, has some extremely good episodes, but it is definitely one of those shows that has some highs and some lows. 

James: Another one for me…Sopranos. Still haven’t watched all of Sopranos, either.

Luke: Yeah, I haven’t seen that either. Which I know owes a lot to The Godfather. Which, by the way, complete tangent…I’ve been re-watching Breaking Bad. After watching all The Godfather series, and knowing that Vince Gilligan has said that he wanted Walt to become Michael Corleone?

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: To me, I can see Michael Corleone all over that character. 

James: Oh yeah?

Luke: It’s amazing. Just seeing that blueprint. Anyway, that’s a complete aside, different project, sorry. I apologize. <laughing>

James: You brought it up. Did you see that they’re doing a Breaking Bad movie? I think Netflix is doing a Breaking Bad movie from Jesse’s perspective or something?

Luke: Yeah, I think it’s about Jesse after the events of Breaking Bad. Yeah, I’m excited.

James: It will be interesting to see. So, back to Jesus’ Son

Luke: Right.

James: Another amazing cameo that I was not…that I didn’t even recognize at first was Holly Hunter as Mira at the AA meeting.

Luke: I don’t think I know that actor.

James: I feel like you would know her if you saw her.

Luke: She did look somewhat familiar.

James: She normally has long, blonde hair. She was in…have you seen The Piano

Luke: No.

James: Did you see The Big Sick a couple years ago?

Luke: No.

James: Have you seen Raising Arizona?

Luke: No.

James: Okay, I know something that you’ve definitely seen. She is the voice of Elastigirl in The Incredibles.

Luke: I haven’t seen The Incredibles.

James: You’ve never seen The Incredibles?

Luke: <laughing> No. 

James: That’s surprising, man.

Luke: Talk about blind spots here. I’ve missed this person’s entire career, apparently, and I apologize.

James: Wow. I think she’s just a great actor. I really, really…recently, the Big Sick I really enjoyed her portrayal in, but she’s great, man. Definitely check some of that stuff out. How about Dennis Hopper as Bill. 

Luke: He was fun. They changed that conversation a little bit to give it a certain meaning that…I wonder…I don’t know. I kind of want to go back and re-read the book now that I’ve seen the movie. Because it is a certain perspective on the book that I could bring with it to the text. But, if you noticed in that conversation they have, the first thing that happens is…Fuckhead, he has some sort of, like, extra perception. Do you remember exactly what he says? He sees something he shouldn’t be able to see, or he knows something he…oh! He knows what the guy is going to say, and he’s all freaked out. He’s like, “I was going to say that. How did you know I was going to say that?” Right? 

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: Which isn’t that weird, but then immediately following that, he is picturing a car crash, and it’s very…to me it’s like he’s seeing the moment from “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.” Did you get that impression?

James: I didn’t, but that’s cool, man. That’s a cool read. 

Luke: He’s talking about a car crash and all these broken bodies and stuff, and it felt to me like he was having a vision about his past. 

James: I’m going to have to re-watch and look for that. 

Luke: I guess we’re just fully hopping around, right?

James: Yeah.

Luke: Do you want to give your little descriptor you were going to give? The whole paragraph, just so we can fully get into it?

James: Yeah. Well, Dennis Hopper is in this, and then the two other actors I wanted to talk about were Denis Leary and Billy Crudup as the main character. So, my touchstone for Billy Crudup was…it was Almost Famous, really. I mean, I love Almost Famous, and he…I don’t know. Kind of a similar time period. Not a similar role, but he…it was very interesting to see. This was before Almost Famous, and you could see somebody seeing this film and saying, like, “Oh, I can see him in the Almost Famous role.”

Luke: I haven’t seen that movie.

James: That is a massive one, dude. You gotta watch that one. 

Luke: <laughing> You guys can’t tell, but I’m killing James right now.

James: That’s a big one, man. You would love that movie. You would love a lot of his movies. So, we’ll have to have a watch party here soon. Okay, so we talked about the actors. Let’s talk about some of the specifics, but first let me give this little plot. 

This story is set in the drug subculture of the 1970s, and its protagonist, a young man in his twenties, careens through his days getting stoned, stealing, and scamming a quick buck. Through it all, he tries to make sense of the mutually destructive passion he shares with a beautiful woman named Michelle.

Luke: Okay. I guess that about sums it up.

James: Kind of. <laughing>

Luke and James: Yeah.

James: In some ways. So that description doesn’t do it justice, but if you want to hear the specifics, go check out our book coverage. We really get into what happens in each individual story.

Luke: Yeah, well, we try to. <laughing>

James: Yeah, that episode was massive. And we felt like we…we could have gone for three hours on that episode.

Luke: Yeah. So, coming back around to me noticing the thorns laying over the head. For whatever reason, in this movie, I was noticing all kinds of stuff like this throughout. And I don’t know if that means that this movie was too overt in, sort of, the filmmaking stuff they were doing, or if it was that I was hypersensitive to it. But let me just run down a list of them. If you want to react to them, you can. Just stop me. But, just things I noticed. 

James: Okay.

Luke: When Michelle and Fuckhead start making out for the first time at the party, they’re outside by a barnyard, or like, by a stable. Which I thought was very obviously trying to say that they have a very animal attraction, and it’s very sort of foundational, natural, that kind of thing. Do you know what I mean?

James: I can see that. One other little viewpoint…the baby in the manger…Jesus. 

Luke: Well, sure, there’s tons of Christ imagery in here, right?

James: Yeah.

Luke: For sure. So, they also, throughout, I thought there was song choice usage that was very on-the-nose for the scene. So, when she’s dancing, she’s dancing to a song about being attractive, at a party, and everybody is looking at you and they want to have sex with you or something. And then, like one person is willing to…like, it was very on-the-nose. The really clear example of this was later on, when he meets the guy wearing a snakeskin jacket. Which, snake, obviously, could be a tie to the snake in the Garden of Eden. Um, and the song is literally, “Satan is real. He walks among us,” or something like that. And I’m like, okay, clearly this guy is supposed to be a Satan figure. Now, how the scene plays out is more like in the book, where there is like a Christ thing, and he felt it must have been him, but then I thought the movie was telling me, “No, that wasn’t Christ; that was Satan.” I don’t know what that means, but…there you go.

James: I will say, talking about that real quick, I mentioned in the book there was, like, maybe some suppressed sexuality stuff. I didn’t get any of that in the film.

Luke: Okay, another one…small one. When he and Michelle are officially together, they have sex for the first time, the octopus on the screen. Now, it would have been subtle if they hadn’t all of a sudden got a full screen of the octopus, right? To me, it said like, “This is important.” And this is where I keep feeling some of this stuff was maybe too overt. 

James: I think that was when…that was the first time…she was shooting heroin in front of him. He was eating cereal. And there were cartoons on the TV. It cut from her shooting up to basically the TV, and there was this, like, happy song. Because I wanted to talk about that scene, too. 

Luke: Oh, and I think they were sharing a needle, too, because I think he takes some. But I’m not a hundred percent about that. My point is, to me, the octopus represented, like, we have four appendages, you know…two arms, two legs. Two people together had eight. And, so, to me, that was a symbol of them being unified into one unit now, which we then get. Like, the next bit is all about them as a couple. So, I got that and, like…so a lot of the stuff I was getting…I don’t know…for whatever reason, maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit…I kept thinking they were being too obvious because I’m picking up on it. <laughing>

James: Well, I will say, like…I mean, I feel like you’re…yeah, you’re bringing your interpretations to it like, that…octopus thing…I didn’t get that. Because I was focused on…I think we’re talking about two kind of separate things. I think the first part is she’s shooting up, and she’s like, “Have you ever seen anybody shoot up before?” And he is just like eating cereal. And then I think the next scene, maybe, is when…so, then it does the close-up of the TV, and then directly after that is when they’re about to have sex, I think?

Luke: No, because she does the drugs after they’ve had sex for the first time. I think it’s…all taken together is like a coming together of these two characters. They’re now linked. They’re now one thing.

James: So, for me, there was this theme of innocence that was kind of set up early on for Fuckhead, and I felt like this innocent scene of him walking out in his underwear and eating cereal while she’s shooting up heroin and there’s a happy song playing and there’s cartoons on the TV in the back…like a wide master of this…and I thought that was very much like his innocence, and like this losing of innocence moment for him.

Luke: So, another one I…yeah…this one is very overt again. We have him reaching through glass later, touching the…

James: Couple.

Luke: Yeah. Woman. And then, coupled immediately with him walking through the halls of Beverly Home and touching everyone who walks by like he’s kind of a savior, right? Like he’s Jesus handing out miracles. And I’m fine with all of this being sort of symbolic subtext to the movie, but in some ways…I don’t know, it felt like it was maybe too heavy-handed. 

James: So, you’re saying…it’s losing its ambiguity that you liked from the book, basically is what you’re saying?

Luke: Yeah, because in the book a lot of that stuff is, “Maybe you could read it that way. Or maybe you could read it in a completely opposite way.” You know, is he a Jesus figure at the end of the book? I don’t know. But in the movie, he clearly was.

James: It didn’t bother me, because I think it was the viewpoint of the filmmaker, but I guess that kind of contradicts what I said earlier with it being such a faithful adaptation. I think having him be this savior might be more watchable for an audience member of a film. Maybe like showing his innocence and then the fall and then the rise again, and kind of becoming this savior allegory. Maybe that’s easier for an audience to watch rather than it being so loosely connected like the book.

Luke: And to be fair, I don’t think it is clear cut that he’s a savior. Because he’s not really saving people at the end. This movie’s interpretation of the text is very interesting. And definitely worth talking about. I guess I just felt like it was…it didn’t leave as much room for ambiguity, and that’s I think a subjective thing. Like, maybe people don’t want that. This movie takes a stand, and it says I think this is what this book is about and this story is about, so I’m going to present it in this way. 

James: If this was Denis Johnson’s goal…this was his vision…I don’t think he would have called the novel, or the collection of short stories, Jesus’ Son. Because it just seems like calling it Jesus’ Son and then having all of this…like he had enough. There’s like the angel in the graveyard and all this other stuff that was in the book, that was kind of leading you to think along those lines, but this was very clearly like…like the moment where he sees the cross and doesn’t take the guitar, or again, the moment in the graveyard, or…all of these things just build…I think maybe there’s too much of it, and it built to basically saying, “This is what the film is about.” And you would have liked a little more ambiguity, and I do agree with that.

Luke: I guess I’m not saying, “There was too much of it; I would have liked more ambiguity.” I’m just noticing, I guess, that there was a lot of it. And there was less ambiguity.

James: Well, I would say that I thought that was your point, but now it’s my point. I think I do wish there was a little more ambiguity. Bringing up all of it in a list like this makes me feel like, “Oh, this is too on-the-nose.” But then again, maybe it’s like you dug into it too much and now I am, and…I don’t know.

Luke: Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe we’ve over-analyzed it, and this is stuff people wouldn’t pick up on as strongly. But, once again, maybe they’re trying to provide a thematic through-line for the movie that unifies all these stories in an even stronger way? So maybe they felt like that was necessary for the movie?

James: Um

Luke: But, yeah, let’s back up a little bit. We’re kind of at the end there, but I think there’s a lot in the middle we can still talk about. Let’s talk about Denis Leary’s scene. So, I watched…so, I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of this show, but I watched all of it, and I think it had moments of brilliance. Rescue Me was a show that Denis Leary did, and it was all about…

James: I think it was on FX, right?

Luke: FX, yeah. It was like firefighters after 9/11, and when it was at its best, it was going through a lot of the difficulties they had in coping with it and being survivors after that happened. And, you know, I for the most part liked it. It definitely had a lot of questionable stuff that went on it, and I’m not necessarily cosigning Denis Leary as this amazing guy, because I know that he’s…done some questionable things. But, I thought he was good in this role, and I thought he played this role well, and I connected with his character. And I said it in the opening, but I think the idea to do this side-by-side breakdown of what happened showed that our main character is rescued by Michelle, and Denis Leary’s character, I think his name is Wayne?

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: He doesn’t have anyone to rescue him. He has the guy who comes in and takes one look at him and walks away and basically leaves him there to die. And, yeah, I don’t know. The moment from the book where it was a very strong sense of the randomness of it, the tragedy of that, and how unfair it was. They talked about it in the movie, as well. You know, “We are luckier than other people, and that’s why we lived.” Or maybe unluckier.

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: And that’s the sense I got from that scene. Once again, I didn’t need him to say the “I’m still alive” line because, to me, that is a line that is only necessary in a book. Or only…I would argue only powerful in a book. In my opinion, it lost its power in the movie. To me, the scene itself said enough to where we didn’t need it.

James: Well, we don’t need somebody to tell us…like, in the context of a book, if somebody doesn’t say, “I’m still alive,” then we don’t necessarily know.

Luke: No, I…I see what you’re saying. You could argue it’s unnecessary in both.

James: By seeing it on film, he’s still alive. You know. We see it. We don’t need anybody to say it. So, I can understand losing that line. I do want to go back to the split screen moment because I think the split screen is something to think about in terms of form. It’s something we can’t do in…you know…in a book. You have two things that are simultaneously…you’re having to watch both things at the exact same time. You can’t do two things at once in a book. You can concentrate on one thing and back to another thing and back and forth, but you can’t physically do at the same time two things. And I know that some people think split screen is outdated at this point, or overused. But I think that it’s interesting to look at the tools of the medium and just think how you can use them to your advantage. And I think it was done well in this scene. Because we are seeing both play out simultaneously, and seeing one die and one survive at the exact same time is powerful.

Luke: And I like that there was a bait and switch, too, because it looks like Fuckhead is the one who’s in real trouble; whereas, Denis Leary is just kind of…Wayne, I should say…is just sort of slumping. You know, Fuckhead’s coughing and gagging. But then he gets rescued, and then we go, “Okay, he’s actually just as bad, if not worse.” 

James: I have to say Wayne’s wife nakedly flying on a parasail is a lot more believable than a kite.

Luke: I think that’s what he meant. I think maybe he just didn’t know. I think he was saying it looked like a kite, but I think it was…to me, it was a parasail type situation.

James: Okay, because I took it to be like this was some trippy dream stuff. Because then he talks about how he was in his dream and stuff. 

Luke: Well, I think he described it that way to make it seem that way, to make it feel that way.

James: But it worked better. Still kind of bonkers, but more grounded, and it makes sense.

Luke: It was really bonkers. In fact, in the movie, maybe even more so, because we don’t get the follow-up scene where he goes and talks to his wife at all. 

James: Yeah.

Luke: He just says, “That was my wife,” and we just have to take him at face value that it was. Because he could just be saying, “Yeah, that was my wife,” to some random person. 

James: <In a slurred voice> That’s my wife…

Luke: Yeah. <laughing> That’s classic comedy. It worked, and I like that moment. I just come back to that, “I’m still alive,” and I’ve been sitting here thinking like, “Why does it work better in the book?” And I think it’s because, when he delivers the line, “I am still alive,” he’s delivering it in the language of the medium which you are experiencing the art itself. The art itself is conveyed through the language you read. Cinema is different…or film is different because you’re watching film, and I feel like dialogue…or voice-over, which is just sort of a form of dialogue…is just a facet of that. Right? It’s an extension of the thing you’re experiencing it through. So, I felt like they had shown it through the medium already, so to have him say it was redundant. Whereas to have him say it in the book is just more in keeping with the medium, I think, in which you’re experiencing the story. Does that make sense?

James: And I think that’s why…yes, I agree. And I think that’s why people struggle with dialogue. I mean, I think people struggle with dialogue in novels and fiction as well, but people struggle with dialogue because in film, I think it’s easier to come off as not important.

Luke: I think I see what you’re saying. It sounds like we’re circling some of the same ideas here. So, I want to see if you know this actor’s name. I just remembered another cameo. So, after the…well, I guess we should really talk about the abortion stuff. But, after that, she’s with John Smith, I think is his name…Michelle…and they’re going to go down to Mexico, and he’s just in their place, and the guy is sitting there on the bed. That guy, that actor, always plays bad guys to me, and he does it really well. He’s like a certain brand of bad guy. And he doesn’t have to say hardly anything in this scene, but he’s so really effective as, like, somebody you dislike just immediately.

James: So, for me, I remember him…I think he was in…he’s in a football movie. He’s in, like, Remember the Titans or something.

Luke: Yes. Yeah, he is in Remember the Titans. And he’s not a bad guy in that movie.

James: Yeah, that’s one of the ones that really sticks out to me for that actor. So, I don’t really see it as much, but I think he did a good job in the role. I think I disliked him immediately in this role, for sure. 

Luke: Yeah, because I remember seeing Remember the Titans and expecting him to be more of a villain, and then it was one of the few times he was able to sort of like…because one of the things that makes him a compelling villain is he has a certain likeableness to him as well. To where he’s a villain, but he’s intelligent, and he’s…the way he speaks is always kind of soft-spoken, and he has a certain kind of intensity to him.

James: It’s just like an intimidating thing, right?

Luke: Well, because he seems like he can see through other people’s bullshit. And so, as a villain, that can be intimidating, because it’s like you’re not going to fool him. 

James: We keep talking about him. His name is Will Patton.

Luke: Will Patton, thank you. Yeah. So, he was one that I…because I didn’t recognize his name…I didn’t expect him to be in this movie, and when he popped up, I was like, “Oh, man, that guy.” I just didn’t know his name, so that’s why. Yeah, he was good, so… But let’s back up and talk about the abortion stuff, because…definitely a little different than the book, but I feel like it was a really fascinating look at the abortion scene and viewing it in sort of a different light while maintaining a lot of the same…I think because it’s Michelle and it’s the same character, right? So, all of a sudden, this is a really important moment for their relationship. Whereas, in the book, it was a different woman from previous parts, or it’s unclear who was the same and who wasn’t, because his romantic partners was a revolving door in the book. 

James: This is why you have this character exist, right? Like, having this character to have her also be the woman who gets an abortion and then ultimately dies? That is super-compelling to have a through-line of that character dying. I think that was the reason to add that character, and I think they pulled it off really well.

Luke: Does it undercut the idea a little bit because you could argue that her character in this film sort of serves the main character’s personal growth? Like…

James: Like, you’re saying she exists to serve…to move his arc along?

Luke: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Is that a fair…because I don’t know if you can really say that about the book because it’s not one character, it’s a revolving door. To me, it was always more like the women in his life were a character, but that character was his own imagining of what he wanted in a romantic relationship, and he was sort of…he always felt like they were going to save  him, like they were motherly to him, and so they all sort of were the same character in that they fit a certain role for him in his life. But in the movie, it is the same person throughout. So, I think then it opens itself up to that sort of analysis.

James: I think you’re right. I think there’s something there, as far as his arc is concerned, for it to be him on his own and not them together. And, like, maybe even her serving his plot. I think it makes for a more personal story for him in a weird way. You would think it would be more personal because he’s more intimate with this person for a longer period of time, but I think the growth of losing a partner and moving on to a new one and doing that multiple times also helps serve his arc in some way. 

Luke: And I guess I’m just sort of playing devil’s advocate a little bit. Because it’s not something I strongly felt watching it. And ultimately, her arc in an of itself in her…what happens is believable. She is shown to be a heroin addict, and they have a destructive relationship, and we talked about it in the book…but he always turns to people who are just as broken as he is, and he wants them to save him, but you know, he ends up letting them down, and conversely, they let him down in some ways. And here it’s another situation of him letting her down, right, because of that letter, or that note she wrote for him. Like, “If you love me, you’ll wake me up” or something like that, and he didn’t see it. And we see him do that again later when he accidentally kills the rabbits…the baby rabbits. Because he accidentally lets them slip around behind him.

James: Well, isn’t “Emergency” before? “Emergency” is before.

Luke: Okay, yeah, so maybe not later…

James: But kind of the same thing.

Luke: Yeah, to me it’s still this…there’s so much bad stuff happening to him, it is his fault, but also sort of…I guess that’s one thing I felt too for the movie, is that it felt a little bit like he wasn’t quite as much of a sad sack, I guess…because he was a huge sad sack in this movie…but in the book he was even more so. And he was, I think he was more irredeemable in the book at times. Whereas, I think they made him a little more redeemable here. We feel like he has good intentions. We don’t see him doing as many totally reprehensible things.

James: I think that’s definitely true. So, do you feel that he was more…so, when you say “sad sack,” do you think that he was more sorry for himself? Because I feel like he is more sorry for himself in the movie, but in the book he is more…he just wallows in it.

Luke: He’s like resigned to it?

James: Yeah, he kind of knows that he lives it.

Luke: Yeah, he’s accepted it. Like, this is just how I am. Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. What it all means, I don’t know. It’s funny, because as much as I want to say this movie is taking all these strong stands, it still is pretty interpretive because… Let’s talk about the end now. So…

James: One more thing I wanted to say. As far as “Dirty Wedding” is concerned…

Luke: Yeah…

James: The end of “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” happens after the abortion, so he pulls the baby from the wreckage. I wanted to know how you felt about that, because I know you really liked “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.”

Luke: So, it’s sort of clever in a way, because I think it recontextualizes something in a way to make it a response to the abortion. He saves the baby for a reason, and it’s because he lets…you know, he lets his baby die in the abortion, you could argue. One might argue. So, that one made me think because it made me revisit the text in sort of a time-is-a-flat-circle True Detective way in saying, “Okay, chronologically it occurs first, but maybe it is still a response to that later event.”

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: And maybe that is why he saves the baby.

James: That’s what I was going to ask you. Do you think, retroactively, we need to look at that story and think of it in terms of the abortion that will later come? Like the protection of the child and also how that stands up with the abortion of a child.

Luke: Well, I think clearly the movie is trying to tell us to look at it that way. I think that is a valid way to interpret it.

James: So, we have a couple other things to get through here before the end. I wanted to shoot to the trippy mushroom/egg/pillow thing.

Luke: Oh, yeah!

James: And I wanted to see if that felt as jarringly out of context to you…it just felt like it was out of nowhere, and it was there because it was in the book. But I did want to say that was kind of the trippy drug stuff that I would have had in my film, for sure.

Luke: See, that’s what I focused more on, I think. I was like, “Oh, this is exactly what I feel like James was saying he would do. He wants more of these drug sequences.” Which we didn’t get very many of them. There was a lot more of just kind of glassy eyes. 

James: I think that’s why I felt like…I thought it was going to be a little darker, a little more heavily drugged…

Luke: There are a few, though. We get the crosses, obviously, in the drive-in. But we also get the guy with the tattoo on his heart sort of floating out…

James: Yeah, true.

Luke: And a few times I think lighting changes, and I think we can interpret that’s the drugs.

James: Yeah.

Luke: Having their effect in the scene.

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: So, there’s a few of them. But, I agree, that scene…it felt a little bit like we need to have a zany over-the-top drug scene in this movie, so let’s put it in.

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: I can see that. It was definitely kind of silly, with the…you know…gauze floating around and all that stuff. 

James: I mean, I liked that part. It was super over-the-top, though.

Luke: It was fine. Honestly, it didn’t bother me. I liked it okay.

James: So, he has this really genuine connection with the woman that meets at the AA meeting, named Mira, played by Holly Hunter. I liked this. I liked their relationship. I liked kind of what it was leading to. And the ending of the film feels a lot neater to me than the book did. It feels a lot more like he’s on the right path, where there’s that ambiguity of, like, he’s starting on the right path, but we’ll see how it all goes because…I think the Mennonite stuff also is answered for us in the film. In the book, we are kind of interpreting what he…what actually comes of that. 

Luke: I touched on this earlier, but I think there were a couple small changes…or big changes…in those scenes that are leading you to feel that way. Him reaching through the glass and touching her. Now, you could say, does he really do that, because he actually is some sort of supernatural being at this moment? I think you could read it that way, but I tend to lean more towards it’s more of a surreal kind of imagining moment. He’s kind of imagining doing this thing, but he’s not actually doing it. But the importance of the scene, we talk about in the book, that there was a barrier between the life behind the glass and the life outside the glass. And how…and they talked about it when they’re in the AA meeting…the idea of you carrying your sins around and being out in the cold and looking in at people who are living “normal lives” and wanting to be on the other side. And in that scene where he’s on the outside, she throws open the blinds, she can’t see him, and he’s just staring up at her, and they recreated that really well in the movie. But in the book, he doesn’t penetrate that barrier, and we’re left with the sense that there’s always a divide, and these people are on that side, and I’m on this side, and there is no breaching it. Whereas, in the movie, he reaches through it. Right? So I think that’s a big difference there, because it’s showing he’s able to do that. Now, I like to think that this is the filmmaker making an observation about how this character, as we talked about in the book episode, based on real life Denis Johnson…I like to interpret the ending of this movie through the lens of Denis Johnson himself getting clean from the drugs and using his pain and using his suffering and his life experience to create art that reaches out and touches people and helps them to feel like they are part of something and helps them to feel like they are understood. And so, in that sense, he is able to reach across a barrier, and he is able to use his pain to help people. And I think that is also reflected in the scene where Fuckhead is walking through Beverly Home touching people.

James: Mmhmm.

Luke: And, clearly, you know, affecting them and helping them. And, to me, that all goes back to, I think, an observation that Denis Johnson, through this book itself, achieved that in some way. And it’s interesting because I don’t know that he was willing to go that far himself. But, as you can see, someone else from the outside looking in could make that observation about it.

James: Exactly. And I think that’s what the film ultimately becomes at the very end here. It is an interpretation of what he himself went through. And you wrapped it up in a nice bow there; it’s a full circle for Denis Johnson, for the film, for the character (Fuckhead), for all of it. This sort of reaching through that you were speaking of. I think that’s a great place to leave it. 

Luke: I agree. That was my takeaway from this film. So, if we want to leave it there, then I’m happy with it. Because that was ultimately how I felt about this movie.

James: Yeah, I like the way that it came together to…and said something different in the end, while also being such a faithful adaptation. It didn’t feel quite as experimental as I mentioned I would want to. But, again, I don’t think that would have been very successful, so…

Luke: In many ways, it was very experimental, though. And like I said, I really wish I had someone watching that film next to me that I could have talked to afterwards, to find out how they felt about it as someone who hadn’t read the book. Just completely as a stand-alone thing. Because…maybe you guys can write in if you do watch it for any reason, and you haven’t read it. If you happen to be a person who has seen the movie and not read the book, I’d love for you to write in to us at Let us know how you felt about the movie, not knowing the source material. I’d love to hear it.

James: They took some big swings, and I could see somebody who didn’t necessarily read the source material being kind of jarred by that, but I think ultimately I really enjoyed this film, and I would be very interested, like you said, to hear what everybody else thinks. I do have one more thing that I wanted to mention before the end. And that’s something that, through our coverage, we haven’t talked about yet. The title, Jesus’ Son, was a lyric pulled from “Heroin” by Velvet Underground. Denis Johnson pulled it out for a very specific reason, and I think it would be interesting to get into it here at the very end. 

Luke: Yeah, I went to listen to the song for the first time, actually, so I’m definitely excited to talk about that. Real quick. I had a thought about this, as we were getting ready to record, and I wanted to mention it on the episode. I love that, for this book, I was able to…and this podcast enables me to do this…I was able to spend essentially two weeks solid thinking about this material and, when I do that, I turn it over in my mind, over and over again. And then when I see an adaptation, it informs the original source material as well, and it makes me re-appreciate it in a new way and look back at it in a new way. And for this sort of really rich, just pregnant-with-meaning kind of book, it’s been a real pleasure to cover this, and it’s been a real pleasure for me to be able to just really sit with this stuff and think about it for so long. And I just really enjoyed that about this project. So, even though it is a little more obscure, definitely a little more indie, I don’t know, it’s just been really fun for me. 

James: Yeah, it’s a project that I never even knew I wanted to do, and so the fact that we’ve done it now has just given me a whole new appreciation for a multitude of things, and it’s a movie I never would have found without this, so I appreciate the podcast for that every week, and everything that you just said before, we should print that on a T-shirt, and that should just be the catch-phrase of the podcast. That whole, like, 15–20 seconds of a speech.

Luke: Okay, I have to re-listen to this later and see if it was any good. I don’t even remember what I said at this point now. I’m a Fuckhead myself. Let’s move on. I did want to say, hey, we’re going to be covering Game of Thrones coming up next, which I’m very excited about. Very important series for me. We’re going to be doing a whole month on it. For Season 1. It’s going to be sort of our…you know, we want to set the table for the series returning for the final season in just a few months here. 

James: I can’t wait. You know, I read a thing on Reddit, and apparently it’s been 540-something days since Game of Thrones was on TV…a new episode was on…so I’m excited to get back in there and get reacquainted, and I’ve been putting off a re-read for a long time so we could do it for the podcast, so I’m looking forward to it.

Luke: Yeah, I hope everybody will return and listen to that with us. We wanted to do a big shout-out to our patrons who make this thing possible, and specifically I want to thank Amanda VP for becoming a new patron. Welcome aboard. Thank you for listening.

James: Yeah, thank you so much for your support. If you want to connect with us on social media, we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all those @InkToFilm. We also have a Facebook Group called the Council of Inklings, and we post polls and other adaptation-related news, so check that out if you’re interested.

Luke: Yeah, and if you’d like to help the podcast out in another way, support us in another way, it doesn’t cost you anything, leave us a rating and review on…iTunes is the best place to do it, but we’ll take them anywhere.

James: And thank you again to Jennifer Della’Zanna for providing our transcripts.

Luke: Absolutely, man. So, sounds like you did some research into where this name came from, so I want to hear it.

James: I was really interested, so I went in and I was like, “I gotta hear this song.” And I was so blown away. I asked you to listen to it…did you have any initial thoughts?

Luke: Yeah, so to me this…it felt like the soundtrack to this movie in some sense. It felt very seventies. It felt very drug-fueled. I mean, obviously, the name of this song is “Heroin.” It’s…to me, it’s abstract and kind of what it felt like to be an addict and to get high and sort of highs and lows of it. But I didn’t do a real deep lyrical analysis or anything.

James: Yeah, well…it’s more of just the feeling. I only listened to it a few times, but the feeling…it’s not that subtle, but it’s cool. It’s really interesting to have this…it’s sort of like these somber periods and intermittently you can tell that high come on, and he starts singing about heroin, and it picks up…the tempo picks up and he starts singing more enthusiastically. You can tell he’s happier. And then those lulls come back. And then it’s kind of just that back and forth, back and forth. And nearing the end, it’s just chaos. 

Luke: Hmm. Yeah.

James: And I just thought that was so brilliant, and such a fascinating song. So…

Luke: Maybe we can include a little clip of it here. Maybe we can get away with that. I don’t know. We’ll talk about it. But, yeah, maybe there will be a little clip of it here, and you’ll hear a little bit of it. Just here at the end, where it’s hidden. <laughing>

<Music plays>

James: So, I also did want to say that there’s a critic, Mark Denning, who wrote, “While ‘heroin,’” describing the song, “hardly endorses drug use, it doesn’t clearly condemn it either, which made it all the more troubling in the eyes of many listeners.”

Luke: Yeah, that’s a good point. 

James: And I think that’s also something to think about with the film, and the story in general. It’s not necessarily condemning the drug use. It’s showing some of the side effects.

Luke: We see multiple people die from it.

James: We do see the side effects, you’re right. You’re right. There is a significant amount of condemning, but I guess what I mean is you could see the characters having a good time for a significant amount of the movie, so…

Luke: Which some people would find troubling, yeah, sure.

James: Yeah. And it seems to be like…you kind of see some of the scenes in the book or the film, and you think…there’s a little pull. It seems like something…an interesting experience at the very least.

Luke: All right, man. I think this is a good place to leave it. Next up, we’ll be heading into Westeros, so… 

James: Can’t wait. I’m looking forward to it.

Luke: All right. Until next time.

<music plays>

James: Thanks for listening.