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Big Sur

3.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In an attempt to heal from the deterioration caused by the pressures of sudden fame and too much alcohol, famous Beat author Jack Kerouac escapes to an isolated, mist-shrouded cabin in the primitive landscape of the Big Sur woods. Instead of finding the peace he desires, he is foiled once again by his own inner demons and sets off on a visceral collision course of paranoia, sex, delirium tremens, misery and madness.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Bosworth, Josh Lucas, Stana Katic, Anthony Edwards
  • Directors: Michael Polish
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Arc Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00FWSWIUU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,930 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 2, 2013
Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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