Big Sur is a Mopey Uneventful Adaptation of the Kerouac Classic


Our season of Beat regurgitation isn’t quite over yet: Fast on the heels of Harry Potter and the Coffeehouse of Extroverts comes this mopey Kerouac adaptation, illustrating the quasi-memoir of the same name (which is read as narration, almost beginning to end) and casting a melancholy eye on Jack’s post-fame period.

Bopping over to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s secluded cabin on the beach whenever he feels like it, Kerouac (a placid Jean-Marc Barr) mostly smokes and quaffs whiskey, while buddies Neal Cassady (Josh Lucas), Philip Whalen (Henry Thomas), and Lew Welch (Patrick Fischler) ramble drunkenly and cavort on the beach like grade-schoolers.

The sunsets and seascapes are pretty, but director Polish, one half of the Polish twin team, is content with stasis and brooding, and you don’t have to be a Beat cultist to wonder why these brilliant and transgressive volcanoes of authentic cool are so friggin’ boring.

Kerouac’s life story is at its root a tale of pulverizing alcoholism, but here, gulping hootch from the bottle is just what everyone does (except Anthony Edwards’s naggy Ferlinghetti), as if it’s an existential solution and not the problem.

Not exactly a hagiography, Polish’s film isn’t a tragedy, either — it’s just an uneventful afternoon spent with a dozing rummy.