A thinly veiled fictional account of the 40-year-old Jack Kerouac (Jean-Marc Barr) visiting poet and fellow beatnik Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Anthony Edwards) at his woodland cabin in Big Sur, this film adaptation of Kerouac’s 1962 novel is an aggressively sketchy affair. That’s because, in most instances, director Michael Polish chooses not to dramatize events, but rather to provide montagey glimpses of the action at hand; rapid-fire narrated readings from the book explain what’s happening, some of which may be real and others parts aspects of the lead character’s delusional nature-and-animal-corpse death fantasies.
Despite his internal-monologue blathering, Barr’s counterculture icon comes off as a drunk, smug cipher, ceaselessly droning on about God, the universe and fame. (Just because it’s faithful to the source material doesn’t make it any less mind-numbing.) Edited to ribbons so that every peripheral player—Kate Bosworth, Radha Mitchell, Josh Lucas, Henry Thomas—is even more one-dimensional than Kerouac himself, it’s a work that accurately expresses the awfulness of narcissistic self-destruction, and nothing else.
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Cast and crew