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Neal Cassady is living the beat life during the 1940s, working at The Tire Yard and and philandering around town. However, he has visions of a happy life with kids and a white picket fence. When his girlfriend, Joan, tries to kill herself he gets scared and runs away. But when Joan reappears will he take the chance at that happiness, or will he turn his back on it? Written by
To appreciate this film the viewer needs either to be in a jazzy, rebellious sort of mood, or have some interest in Neal Cassady, an American who figured heavily in the development of the "beat generation" of the 1950s.
Set in the 1940s during one notable period of Cassady's life, the film is mostly a character study of Cassady (Thomas Jane), and his relationship with other people in his life, including his friend Harry (Keanu Reeves) and various romantic interests, the central one being Joan (Claire Forlani).
But Cassady was a quirky kind of guy, a rebel, a nonconformist, fun loving, with a restless energy, a person constantly on the move, both physically and philosophically. As presented in the film, he is a cross between James Dean and Jim Morrison.
Cassady's offbeat personality is mirrored in the film's offbeat style. It's shot partly in color and partly in B&W. Plot structure seems deliberately chaotic, frenetic, loose. Jump cuts can be jarring for viewers expecting a smoothly flowing, linear plot. And the tone alternates between silly and philosophical. Background music is mostly jazz with some blues thrown in. Accordingly, a lot of viewers will find the film's unorthodox style off-putting.
But I liked it, for the most part. The plot would have been stronger if it had focused on Cassady's 1950s relationship with other historical figures, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, instead of his romances with random women. Otherwise, the cinematography, the music, and the performance of Thomas Jane are terrific.
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