FILM REVIEW: Big Sur (2013)

Jack Kerouac’s 1962 novel, Big Sur, was an autobiographical account of the author’s retreats to the Californian coastline region, where he sought sobriety and inner peace after the commercial and critical success of On the Road.

The embodiment of the Beat generation, readers may visualize Kerouac as a young renegade. In this adaptation, Jean-Marc Barr is a very bleak-looking Kerouac – a brooding, middle-aged alcoholic.

We watch him drift between his cabin hideaway and San Francisco, with a troupe of acquaintances in tow. Director Michael Polish has dispensed with the alter-egos of Kerouac’s novel, so there’s Philip Whalen (Henry Thomas) and Lew Welch (Patrick Fischler) etc.

Wispy Kate Bosworth plays a needy mistress of Neal’s called Billie, whose young son stares at Kerouac with contempt. Only the performances of Josh Lucas as Neal Cassady and Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Cassady threaten to breathe energy into the picture.

Long, slow montages of the coast and the heavy stream-of-consciousness voiceover dominate.

Kerouac suffers mental deterioration. Delirium creeps in. Words tumble out. He says he is a language spinner. Some poor young hanger-on thinks there is something noble and idealistic about the beat generation.

The film depicts the gap between myth and reality at least.

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