Australian Heldentenor du jour commits signature works to disc.
Following on the heels of Walter Salles’s adaptation of the Jack Kerouac classic, On The Road, comes this bildungsroman about another key writer of the beat era, the poet Allen Ginsberg, in his formative college years.
Identified here mainly through his signature bulbous spectacles, Ginsberg looks more like an older Harry Potter than the rotund, bearded figure familiar from photos and film footage of the time – hardly surprising given he’s played by Danie Radcliffe. This may sound like stunt casting, but the British actor, to his credit, pulls off the challenge , forgetting about trying to literally impersonate Ginsberg and manages to give an admirably nuanced performance.
Leading the young poet into temptation with a series of anarchic pranks and adventures at Columbia University in 1944 is a group of rebellious bohemians including the spirited Kerouac (Jack Huston) and cadaverous William Burroughs (Ben Foster). Standing above them all is the motley crew’s de facto figurehead, the now largely forgotten Lucien Carr, charismatically incarnated by newcomer Dane DeHaan.
I’m not sure John Krokidas’s lively debut film makes the Beats very likeable – to this reviewer they come across as a gang of spoiled and pretentious young jerks. But that insight (if indeed it is intentional) is not without value.