It’s not one of the higher profile projects for 127 Hours
star James Franco and Mad Men
’s Jon Hamm. Yet Howl
is a movie that deserves not to be overlooked, and one that should find an audience on DVD.
The film is a biopic of Allen Ginsberg, the late American poet whose most famous work, Howl, gives this feature its title. Franco takes the role of Ginsberg, and acquits himself well, although the film is less successful in depicting the obscenity trial that surrounded the work itself. But it does get the story across reasonably well, and it’s when Franco and Hamm in particular are on screen that the film is at its most successful.
Howl offers quite a quiet treatment for a story that arguably deserves more, though, and that’s a surprise. There are some interesting choices made in the execution, but they never fully gel in the way you’d hope. And that leaves you firmly in the company of Franco’s performance for the film’s highlights. Fortunately, he delivers, and once more proves himself as one of Hollywood’s brightest emerging actors. Howl is worth seeing for a few reasons, but Franco is chief among them. --Jon Foster
Rob Epstein directs this drama based on the obscenity trial faced by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg following the publication of his poem 'Howl'. Set in 1950s San Francisco, the film stars James Franco as the young Ginsberg, who becomes a lynchpin of the Beat generation, alongside the likes of Jack Kerouac (Todd Rotondi) and Neal Cassady (Jon Prescott). Psychedelic animation sequences illustrating the poem are interspersed with courtroom scenes in which Jake Ehlrich and Ralph McIntosh play the opposing lawyers battling over the slippery question of whether or not the poem has sufficient literary merit to redeem its profane content.