Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie. It could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like.
Billy Crudup has been getting good notices lately for his turn in William H. Macy’s Rudderless. Most of them, in fact, point out how much better he is than the material at hand. It got me thinking about Crudup as an actor that I fear many take for granted, myself included. You can sometimes find him in thankless, largely expositional roles such as the slimy turncoat in J.J. Abrams’ Mission Impossible III. Or sometimes he’s toiling in under-seen gems like Keith Gordon’s Waking the Dead. He’s no stranger to being better than the film he’s in, either, having injected the perfect amount of heartbroken soulfulness into the superhuman Dr. Manhattan in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. But perhaps his best role is as the geographically and emotionally wandering young man known as Fuckhead in Alison Maclean’s Jesus’ Son. Perhaps too incompetent to choose his own path, Fuckhead seems to let circumstances make his decisions for him. His aimless journeys make the film necessarily episodic (it’s based on a collection of short stories). The events and people he encounters are often darkly comic and sometimes just brutally dark. What’s remarkable, though, is how Crudup subtly builds a complete character who is teased out over the course of these vignettes. Maclean has turned into a journeyman television director but has sadly not made a narrative feature since Jesus’ Son. When she does, I hope Crudup is once again along for the ride.