Most helpful positive review
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Kerouac's "Big Sur" on Film
on November 2, 2013
Jack Kerouac and the Beats have been receiving considerable recent attention on film. Following last year's film of "On the Road" , there are two new movies about the Beats: "Kill your Darlings", which tells the story of Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg, and this film adaptation of Kerouac's 1962 novel, "Big Sur", directed and with a screenplay by Michael Polish.
As does Kerouac's novel, the film describes the author's mental and physical deterioration resulting from drinking in 1959-1960.. It is set and filmed in Big Sur, Monterrey County, and San Francisco. The film shows Kerouac receiving a great deal of publicity and adulation that he was unable to handle following the publication of "On the Road". Kerouac's friend, Lawrence Ferlinghetti,, offers him the use of his cabin on Big Sur, hoping that nature and isolation will help Kerouac find peace and enable him to write. Instead, Kerouac quickly becomes bored and discontented while drinking heavily. He heads to North Beach to catch up with his friends, continuing to drink. The movie alternates between scenes in San Francisco and scenes at Big Sur. Kerouac becomes involved with Billie Dabney, the mistress of his friend, Neal Cassady, who has a young son, Elliott. As was the pattern of his life, Kerouac proves unable to commit to Billie. "You withhold your love", Billie tells him.
Most of the movie is recounted in a voice-over with Kerouac's rhythmic, ranting voice from "Big Sur" accompanying the scenes from the movie. While Kerouac's language is effective, the voice-overs slow the pace of the movie. The scenes in which the movie is told in dialogue, rather than in Kerouac soliloquizing are more immediate, particularly in the sharp confrontational scenes between Kerouac and Billie and in the moment, late in the film, when Kerouac breaks down from his heavy alcohol abuse.
The movie captures Kerouac's alternating tone of self-laceration and self-pity together with his creative gifts. It captures a sense of loneliness and isolation and inability to connect with others. There are good portrayals of Kerouac's friends, including Neal and Carolyn Cassady, Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and Philip Whalen. Allen Ginsberg, among others, is absent from the film although he is a character in the novel. The film captures the wild beauty of Big Sur and the coast.
Jean Marc-Barr plays Kerouac well, even though the film drags. Other members of the cast include Kate Bosworth as Billie, Josh Lucas and Rhada Mitchell as Neal and Carolyn Cassady, Anthony Edwards as Ferlinghetti, Balthazar Getty as the poet Michael McClure, and Henry Thomas as the poet Phillip Whalen.
The movie captures the feeling of alcoholic deterioration, loneliness, and an inability to connect, characteristics of Kerouac's novel. It is a worthwhile effort at filming a late Kerouac novel and will reward viewing by readers fascinated with Kerouac and the Beats.
Total Time: I hour, 22 minutes