April 6, 2014

Big Sur

Michael Polish, 2013
The adaptation of Kerouacs tormented stream of consciousness madness novel is sacred ground for the die-hard fans (like yours truly). A novel that so well cataloged Jack's complete plummet into an alcohol-ridden state of psychosis where he would ultimately spend the tragic final years of his life. The film is set in the beautiful coastal Big Sur region of California. Many years have passed since Jack and Dean Moriarty hit the road in the beloved beat-nick bible "On the Road" (another recent Kerouac adaptation to be reviewed here at a later time). Jack has become jaded, exhausted, fed up with the world around him. The world around him has changed as well, people are more reluctant to pick up the hitchhiker. There's been a suburban sprawl. He finds himself unable to live up to the expectations of others. Seeking isolation, and then becoming frustrated and tormented by that very seclusion. Everyone around him bears witness to his downfall. And amid all of the inner turmoil there remains a certain optimism, a soul searching, pursuit of something. It's that very energy that gives this picture a good construct. Without it, we are just watching a (possibly bipolar?) genius drink his life away. And maybe we are watching that either way, but there is at least some positivism.

The continual narration ensures loyalty to the source material, although there's never a true sense of synchronicity with what is on screen very much due to Kerouac's signature rapid, run-on writing style. There's detailed set design. A dreamy score maintains a certain daydreamy quality, while some great camera work helps to deliver that same feeling throughout. Beautiful shots of the lush, foggy Pacific Northwest forests. Sped-up shots of the mist gliding over the Pacific Ocean. Jean-Marc Barr is impressive as the aged Kerouac, with Josh Lucas and Patrick Fischler also providing noteworthy performances. People may criticize the film for being a bit spiraling, aimless. And perhaps it is. But it hits the desired beats. It should leave the original readers satisfied. 

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