This is a movie about the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. It’s pretty much a rundown of Allen Ginsberg’s life, (he’s played by the sexy James Franco) with some animated sequences depicting passages from “Howl.” It also has a plotline about an obscenity trial against the poem’s publisher.
The best scenes in the movie are definitely the ones depicting Allen Ginsberg’s life. James Franco totally nails it, of course, and looks pretty good with a beard and hipster glasses. Speaking of hipsters, until I saw this, I didn’t realize hipsters existed in the fifties. I definitely thought this was their first time around. Anyway, I actually didn’t like Allen Ginsberg prior to seeing this film. He seemed pretentious, self-righteous, and a tad judgmental, and I always had a creeping suspicion that he was a douche. However, after learning more about his life, (like that whole ‘mother was killed in a mental asylum’ thing), I have a greater fondness for him. I didn’t even know that he was homosexual, but that’s probably due to a lack of attentiveness during 11th grade English.
On the other hand, the animated parts are not good at all. It’s a lot of stilted, dated looking computer animation, and it’s really distracting. It’s unfortunate that they chose to focus on naked human figures, because they end up looking weird and unrealistic. The first time they came on screen, I was hoping it was a one time experiment by the art department, but it persists for the entire movie. The upside is that these segments provide an ideal opportunity to run to the bathroom.
The final aspect of the movie is the obscenity trial, and while it remains pretty bland, it does point out some interesting questions about literary merit. A key problem with the trial is that it doesn’t maintain any tension – the audience already knows that “Howl” goes on to critical praise. And while you can make the argument that the audience will always know the ending with a historical story, I would like to mention that everyone knows what happened to the Titanic and everyone knows what happened to Facebook, and both inspired excellent movies. The issue never seems compelling – the judge is on Ginsberg’s side from the start, and the opposing lawyer is an absolute idiot. I was never really clear on what the consequences of losing the trial would be. I assumed that the poem would be removed from circulation, but it had already been released prior to the trial, and its not like the police were going to take battering rams to all the San Francisco studio apartments and search for it, so the whole thing seemed kind of moot.
All in all, this is your average good movie. It’s probably worth seeing if you’re an Allen Ginsberg and/or James Franco fan, but if you have no interest in either, then you’re better off with something else.
Hottiez 4/5 Did you see the part where it stars James Franco?
Ability to make me hate Allen Ginsberg less 5/5 I don't hate him at all anymore!
Animation 0/5 I think they were on the same peyote Ginsberg took when they decided to use computer animated corpse monsters to re-enact the poem