A look at Neal Cassady, who was an icon of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, perhaps best known as the inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's classic On the Road. Written by
I saw "Neal Cassady" at the Woodstock Film Festival. Me and my wife Rita cruised over, figuring it would be bad bad bad-- but it was a slow night, so what the hell? I was very much unprepared for what I saw. I figured it would be just a standard bad biopic about the Beat legend Neal Cassady. It is not. It actually has a point(unlike the Cassady movie a few years back with Keanu Reeves.) Every scene seems to me to be about the trouble we can get into if we start believing in our own hype. The theme of movies runs throughout. It is a pop culture parable. My favorite scene has Neal Cassady (played poignantly and brilliantly by a beefed up Tate Donovan)leaving a matinée screening of "Rebel Without A Cause" and getting into his car. The score for Rebel continues over the images of Neal getting in his car-- a great and creative way of showing Neal's confusion(he thinks he is in the Jimmy Dean movie!) It's nothing less than tragic to see aging Neal still playing the part of Dean Moriarty in "On The Road." Whereas so often the Acid Test Bus Trip has been portrayed as a revolutionary fun party(and it certainly was, if you are an old hippie like me and remember it first hand) >>but here we have the party as seen through Neal's weary speed freak eyes. And what Cowboy Neal sees is a nightmare in which endless youngsters are constantly coming to him and asking him to act like a clownish Superman. He is trapped by an alter ego he and his best friend(Kerouac) created over a decade ago. The cast is great, although I think they could have been a little more dirty. The music is great (when did you think you would hear Don Cherry and Kitty Wells on the same soundtrack?) My only complaint is that the running time of the film was a little short and some of the locations felt budget and worst of all... NO GRATEFUL DEAD! NO JERRY! Other than those problems-- it is one of the best biopics I have seen in years.
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