Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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

Robin Friedman.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
There’s an almost sub-genre of literature that deals with writers breaking down, Fitzgerald’s “Crack-up” and Phillip K. Dick’s “Valis” and of course Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur.”

“Big Sur” chronicles Kerouac’s ever-so-slightly fictionalized account of his disintegration. After fame and success sweeps over Kerouac as “King of the Beats” and tries to live up to the reputation with a party in every town, or is it a binge? He wants an escape from those pressures and friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti volunteers his rustic cabin at Big Sur. Once there Kerouac faces only himself and soon becomes bored and heads back to San Francisco, friends, acolytes, parties and Neal Cassady. Cassady hooks him up with his mistress Billie who has a son, soon to Cassady’s chagrin Kerouac and Billie are having an affair.

“Big Sur” swings back and forth between action in San Francisco and continued retreats to Big Sur, but Kerouac keeps pulling people up to the cabin in an effort to avoid confronting himself and his deteriorating condition.

The movie has a cigarette tinged, half full bottles of whiskey feel (although the bottles are half full they never seem to empty). “Big Sur” is like a home movie of the beat generation with narration. The narration, straight from “Big Sur” starts to work like the narration in “Apocalypse Now,” it becomes a character in the movie, there’s even one scene that seems very reminiscent of “Apocalypse” whether that is intentional or not is anybody’s guess.
The casting of “Big Sur” seems right on, while there are no extended scenes of action or dialog, the actors look like the people they’re supposed to be and director Michael Polish gets a lot of acting from his cast in emotion. Jean-Marc Barr looks right on as the debauched Kerouac, a man who is victim and pained by his own weaknesses Josh Lucas seems the best screen Neal Cassady both in look and characterization, Anthony Edwards makes the most of his premature balding as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kate Bosworth is a stunning Billie, Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Cassady has a few good scenes notably when Kerouac brings Billie to meet Carolyn.

Kerouac’s books may be too internally driven to make great movies out of, as with the recent filmed version of “On The Road” the movie relies heavily on the voiceover and Kerouac’s writing that unintentionally keeps the audience at arms length. While “Big Sur” works better as a film than “On The Road” it still misses something in the translation from book to movie. “Big Sur” doesn’t seem to convey the utter horror Kerouac felt, at the end with Billie and her son, he thought her a witch and the child a sorcerer putting hexes on him. Filmed versions of Kerouac’s books may not be a good idea, as much as fans may want to see the movies, but it doesn’t like it would translate well to the uninitiated, still this is a good movie that I’d be willing to see again.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2013
The film was very well done and that was not an easy thing to do.

If you're a fan of Kerouac, the book itself or movies about alcoholics self-destructing (I know a happy theme to be sure) you'll appreciate the movie.

The only way a book about such a heavy topic worked was because it was filled with Kerouac's amazing prose and he provided the reader insights into alcoholism and the self-loathing that comes with the disorder. Much of the story takes place in Kerouac's head. Thankfully the director understood this and preserved that essential part of the book by including passages from the book narrated by the actor playing Kerouac in the film.

The cinematography is outstanding and the performances by the actors were all very well done.

I definitely liked the movie both in and of itself and as an adaptation of a beloved book.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2014
HEART BEAT, the ambiance accurate but factually inaccurate 1980 film about Kerouac and Cassady, was my first intro to the whole Beat scene. Ever since that time I have steeped myself in Kerouaciana rather deeply. Nick Nolte played Neal Cassady in that film - and in 2012's ON THE ROAD, Garrett Hedlund attempted to embody Dean Moriarty who was, in truth, Neal Cassady. Both prior actors brought their own qualities to the role without achieving total verisimilitude either in visage or personality. There have been a few others who have attempted to tackle the mercurial nature of the truly astonishing Neal Cassady. He was tough to pin down in his own time, let alone now! Ten things at once and never the same thing twice! Now in BIG SUR we have Josh Lucas as the legendary Neal. He is a virtual doppleganger to the real thing - and acts his role well and truly. The thing is there just isn't enough of him in BIG SUR, either book or film. Someone should make a movie with Neal as the centerpiece and cast Josh Lucas in the part before the parade passes. Neal's story after his sudden fame due to ON THE ROAD would make a top-notch film: from San Quentin for the ludicrous two years for pot possession (and now you can buy it in the state where Neal grew up!), to taking the wheel of Ken Kesey's psychedelic bus 'Further', on to his early and mysterious death in Mexico - terrific movie material and in Josh Lucas a convincing and compelling Cassady. Maybe one day...

As to BIG SUR, it is a beautifully photographed and scored and narrated by Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac movie. I enjoyed it immensely. Is it perfect? No. The actor playing Kerouac is, I believe, bald. In fitting him with a wig to play Kerouac I wish they'd fitted him with more of it! And blue contacts would have been nice to capture the real writer's "amazingly blue eyes." This isn't picayune. Why get the costumes and cars accurate, but not the eyes and hairstyle? I just watched Ed Harris as Beethoven - and in the movie he wore contacts and a wig on his balding head to better create the look of the historical man. But apart from the hair and the eyes and Jean-Marc Barr's being nowhere near the handsomeness of the real deal, he acts his role for the most part brilliantly. His narration - though fast and scrolling - has been criticized by some. But that was how the real writer read his works aloud. For the most part BIG SUR is a very good adaptation of the same titled book. Of course no movie can ever truly and completely capture a book. They are two different art forms. Was MOBY DICK the movie all of Melville? Certainly not, but it was a good movie and captured much essence in its sight and sound. UNDER THE VOLCANO is an impossible-to-film book - yet Huston's film of it caught some very real lightening in a bottle.

Anyway, if you are interested or curious or just toe-dipping into the waters of the Beats, this is a very good film. As HEART BEAT led me to want to learn more, this may well do likewise for current and future viewers. A small consideration, however: if you know little or nothing about Jack Kerouac and his circle of friends and his literary life, this movie may seem quite obscure. A quick boning up on some Wikipedia entries might remedy that - and then the film can be enjoyed more fully and on its own level.

Well done - and worthwhile!!!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2014
This is a tale (based on Kerouac's book of the same title) about a tortured man. This man was Kerouac himself. Kerouac seemed to be fighting several personal demons and he withdrew into the bottle. The time is 1960 and a Kerouac friend, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, offers Kerouac the use of his Big Sur Cabin located just off CA Hwy 1 on Bixby Creek. Perhaps Kerouac can find some peace and solace at the cabin. Unclutter his life, enjoy the beauty of Big Sur. Does not really turn out that way. Kerouac, the king of the beats, tells those who will listen that he does not have all the answers. The film does a good job of staying true to the book. The book (and film) is rather depressing as it portrays the sadness of a broken and alcoholic man. Jack and Neal try to get the old magic back but it is gone. The actor playing Kerouac did a good job. The film has some great shots of the cabin at Big Sur, the Pacific Ocean, Bixby Creek, SF, City Lights, Hwy 1 etc. I enjoyed the movie and I think the filmmaker did a good job putting it together. I applaud both this film and As I lay Dying. Perhaps these films will turn some on to American literature. Big Sur is not a feel-good piece but if you're a Kerouac fan I think you will enjoy it..
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2015
I'm giving this film five stars. If you suffered through the 'On the Road' debacle from a few years back (see my review), then you may cringe (as I did at first) when discovering that another Kerouac book has been made into a movie.But...this one is great! It captures the spirit of the Kerouac's book. Sure, it's desolate and bleak and a bit depressing at times - but so was the book. Kerouac was crashing hard at the time, but had lost none of his literary genius in documenting it. Same goes for "Big Sur'" director Michael Polish. He and the entire cast and crew seem to be devoted to staying true to Kerouac's book and vibe, and hats off to them.It works! It's also filmed on location at Big Sur, which brought back many wonderful memories of this magical and timeless part of California.See this for yourself & definitely read the book if you haven't.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2014
A beautiful film, mesmerizing like the ocean, or the deep woods, or your thought....capturing a slice of the pathos of any life lived, rolling ocean waves narrating in the voice and play of Jean Marc Barr, Franco-American actor at his best in this role of anguished artist.... Supporting cast so excellent, a labor of love assuredly....Music: haunting me still, by great contemporary composers, of The National, the Brothers Dressner. Direction by Michael Polish: an honor to behold, well composed, intimate, brief yet languishing, even humoristic, all at the same time...like Kerouac... A valiant effort to capture a wealth of words with a wealth of visuals... Definitely a "stand the test of time" film, and, frankly, gorgeous, thanks to all who helped produce this work of art.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2013
As much as I liked On the Road, Big Sur tops it by far with it's excellent acting and cinematography. Jack's decent into alcohol delirium is perfectly portrayed by Jean Marc-Barr. Finally a great Beat movie!! I wish I had seen it in the theater.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on June 20, 2015
“Big Sur” (2013), based on the 1962 book by the enigmatic Jack Kerouac, details the author’s three retreats to a friend’s cabin in the magnificent eponymous location a hundred miles south of San Francisco. Sometimes he’s alone and sometimes he’s with friends. Kerouac can’t handle his fame and success as the leader of the beatniks and so descends into the darkness of alcohol addiction.

While this is a well-made artsy film featuring narrations from the author himself throughout, it's done in by its subject. At least with 1991's "The Doors," which chronicled Jim Morrison's downward spiral, we got great music, entertaining concert footage and colorful characters. "Big Sur," by contrast, only has Kerouac's stream-of-consciousness verbiage (i.e. "interior monologue") and the beautiful cinematography of Big Sur. Yes, it's professionally made with a quality cast and it kept my interest for the first 45-50 minutes, but then it just drones on to the bitter end. I hate seeing people waste their talents, especially by their own foolish addictions. Of course this is the only way the story COULD end since it's based on real life. Jack was dead at 47. Despite my criticisms, "Big Sur" is worthwhile if the topic interests you and the film's obviously a must for Kerouac fans; it will leave most everyone else bored or depressed.

Interestingly, it was 1957's "On the Road" that propelled Jack to beatnik stardom, but he later confessed it "was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him." Too bad his revelation didn't help him out with his increasing substance abuse.

The film runs a mere 81 minutes and was shot in Big Sur and San Francisco.

GRADE: C
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2014
Provides a good biography of Keroac after On the Road made him a star but does take a few historical liberties. The movie includes a lot of narration in Keroac's style. Beautiful photography
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed


 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.