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Sundance Review: Kerouac’s epic bender

by on January 25, 2013

When Truman Capote heard that Jack Kerouac had typed “On the Road” without rewrites on one continuous roll of paper cranked through his typewriter, Capote dismissed it, saying: “That’s not writing—that’s typing.”

If anything, the biopic “Big Sur,” premiering at Sundance suffers from too much polish and too little motion.

Director/screenwirter Michael Polish’s lushly filmed “Bg Sur,” based on Kerouac’s book of the same name, picks up the author’s life a few years after “On the Road” catapulted Karouac to fame. He’s become an American icon forever hitchhiking across the continent and the Beat movement has become a caricature. Jack’s battling black moods, alcohol and writer’s block.

Jack (Jean-Marc Barr) heads out for his pal Lawrence’s Ferlinghetti’s primitive cabin at Big Sur to heal. Unfortunately—to take the movie at its word—Jack learns upon arriving in San Francisco that his cat has died. The news sends him on on a bender fueled by cheap port wine, cigarettes, fear of death and self pity.

For the rest of the movie, Jack stumbles around in front of breath-taking scenery and a cast dressed in full-on “Mad Men” casual-Friday style and driving classic ’50s automobiles. Beset by his demons, delirium tremors, Neil Cassidy’s annoying mistress and cosmos-shaking hangovers, Jack spews forth a torrent of not-half-bad prose that will become his 1961 novel “Big Sur.”

Spoiler alert: The film ends on a happy note reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara’s “tomorrow is another day” outlook. (And you think I’m kidding.)

Any film this well made with the acting muscle of Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Bosworth, Radha Mitchell and Anthony Edwards is destined to make it to the art houses.

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