Sometimes, a supporting character can steal focus from the leads of the film and capture an audiences’ attention in unsuspecting ways. It’s a testament to both a script and an actor’s performance to make us want to know more about a supporting, but no less important, character in a movie.
This Friday, “The Jesus Rolls,” will be released in a limited theatrical run. The movie is a spin-off of “The Big Lebowski,” centering on John Turturro’s character Jesus Quintana. “The Big Lebowski” has grown in esteem since its initial release in 1998 and Turturro is ready to bring the character back to the screen. He wrote and directed the new movie, based on Bertran Blier’s original characters and Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation.
“The Jesus Rolls” clearly seems like a passion project for Turturro. It remains to be seen if the spin-off is worth it. Sometimes, movies spawn sequels and spin-offs to capitalize on a particular franchise. The “Despicable Me” series is a prime example. Those movies caught on as successful family films. The Minions became a large talking point of the first film, which led to the squeaky sidekicks getting their own movie (with a new one on the way).
It’s easy to bemoan an origin story. They follow a formula and run the risk of stealing focus from the original property. Conversely, supporting players can be overwhelmingly effective, leaving the audience wanting to know more. Staying in the realm of the Coen Brothers, their Oscar-winning film “No Country for Old Men” is a prime example. The movie won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem. His performance as Anton Chigurh was immediately solidified as one of the great villain performances in film. Who wouldn’t be interested in an Anton Chigurh origin story?
Spin-offs are a gamble but sometimes they work, when put in the right hands. “The Jesus Rolls” isn’t likely to ascend to the status of “The Big Lebowski,” but perhaps Turturro will make the character worth the re-visit.