Monday, January 20, 2014

Big Sur DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
From director Michael Polish comes a look at the life of famous Beat author, Jack Kerouac . In an attempt to heal from the deterioration caused by the pressures of sudden fame and too much alcohol, famous Beat author Jack Kerouac escapes to an isolated, mist-shrouded cabin in the primitive landscape of the Bug Sur woods. Instead of finding the peace he desires, he is foiled once again by his own inner demons and sets off on a visceral collision course of paranoia, sex, delirium tremens, misery and madness.

Film (2 out of 5 stars)
The film is based upon the novel Big Sur, which was written after Kerouac became popular with On the Road. It’s a look into Jack’s life after the novel… from his return to the West Coast after going home and living with his mother.  Jack (Jean-Marc Barr) returns to San Francisco as a stop along the way to the cabin of his friend, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Anthony Edwards). The cabin which is in the middle of the Big Sur woods is a quiet refuge, where Kerouac can hide out, write and live peacefully. 

After a few days, though, he can’t take the solitude and returns to civilization where he meets up with his friends. Kerouac returns to the cabin two more times, once with his friends for a week of fun, that ends up with drunken nights and bonfires on the beach, and once with Billie (Kate Bosworth), who was once the mistress of his best friend, Neal (Josh Lucas). The events, which occur over a three week time period, show the paranoia, the hallucinations and the desperation Kerouac felt after his sudden rise to fame after publishing On the Road.

I am not sure how I felt about the movie. I expected more of an adaptation of the book, but I felt like I was watching a recitation of parts of the book which were then acted out. It was different… and not necessarily in a bad way. It just wasn’t for me. The acting was good, and I liked the characters played by Josh Lucas and Kate Bosworth. Not being a fan of Jack Kerouac, I can’t really compare this to anything else he’s ever written or done. I’ve never felt inclined to read his books and I don’t understand the whole “Beat movement.” It seems to me that Kerouac was the “hipster” of his generation.
Video (3 out of 5 stars)
Big Sur is presented in a widescreen letterbox format and adjusted to fit widescreen televisions. The 2.40 aspect ratio is good, with no parts of the movie cut off on the ends. The colors were great, the Pacific Ocean shots were blue, green and every color you’d imagine the ocean to be. The greens in the woods were subtle, very realistic and when the mist came in, it looked very authentic. Having been to Big Sur and to the woods, I felt the presentation of those places were spot on… bright when required and muted when appropriate.
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
Presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital with an option to change to English 2.0 Dolby Digital, the sound quality of Big Sur was good. The sound level is consistant, the background noises are not distracting, and while the background music got to be a little annoying, it didn’t overpower what everyone was saying.
Special Features (1/2 out of 5 stars)
I was disappointed in the lact of special features on this DVD. The only extra was the theatrical trailer, which I enjoyed. The trailer made me want to see the movie, it made it seem more exciting than it was. I would have liked to have seen some special features on the life of Jack Kerouac. Something about his books, his history, why the Beatnik movement was so popular. It would have made for some interesting watching.
Summary (2 out of 5 stars)
Big Sur was an interesting look into the life of one of the west coast’s most interesting authors. Even after letting what I watched sink in, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t love it, either. It’s not a movie I will watch again, but I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was too slow, and I again found myself watching the counter on the DVD to see how much longer it was going to last. That said, I didn’t find myself wishing the last 80 minutes of my life back. The lack of special features really hurt it and if done properly, would really have brought up the score. If you are a hipster or beatnik, you will enjoy this movie and I would recommend it.   

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