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....
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Yvonne de la Vega,
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
The letter, on which this movie is based, was referred to by its author Neal Cassady, and its recipient Jack Kerouac as "the Joan Anderson letter" (even though the only extant fragment more prominently and dramatically dealt with a different girlfriend of Neal's at the time, nicknamed Cherry Mary). This letter, written in December 1950 about events in Cassady's life from the summer thru Christmas of 1945, was "lost" circa 1954 and 1955. But before that happened, a five thousand word fragment (on which this movie is based) had been copied (retyped) likely by Kerouac himself, and was subsequently published in 1964 in a small San Francisco literary magazine called "Notes From Underground", then again later in Cassady's posthumous autobiography "The First Third" (beginning "To have seen a specter isn't everything ..."). The entire sixteen thousand word letter by Cassady - which Kerouac had praised as a turning point in his approach to writing - was never seen again after 1955 - and consequently became something of a Holy Grail in the Beat world. Miraculously, in 2012, the entire letter was found after nearly sixty years in old boxes that had been stored since being rescued from the Sausalito publisher Golden Goose's garbage when it folded in 1955. It's set for auction on December 17, 2014. See more »
Dianne Reeves wasn't born until 1956 but her "Jingle Bells" is used in the soundtrack. See more »
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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