Critic Reviews



Based on 24 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
Not quite a biopic, not really a documentary and only loosely an adaptation, Howl does something that sounds simple until you consider how rarely it occurs in films of any kind. It takes a familiar, celebrated piece of writing and makes it come alive.
The trouble with the film is that it often feels too respectable for its own good, preserving the facts of yesterday's rebellion while leaving it firmly in the past. Happily, Ginsberg's words still cut recklessly through the years.
Epstein and Friedman's doc-like approach also results in a certain dramatic stasis; Howl is a film aimed more for the head than the gut.
The result is more fancy than funky, but the directors' aim is true and occasionally hits its mark.
What's cinematic experimentation without a few failures in the lab? Maybe that's why Howl is so appealing: The filmmakers don't get everything right but their passion for Ginsberg's genius and their excitement over trying to deconstruction a literary master work is contagious.
Intelligent and highly respectful of its central character and his titular landmark poem, HOWL is an admirable if fundamentally academic exploration of the origins, impact, meaning and legacy of Allen Ginsberg's signal work.
I found Howl a fascinating and imaginative evocation of mid-20th-century liberation, a mere and merciful 90 minutes long.
Village Voice
Basically, Epstein and Friedman are feel-good filmmakers-their Ginsberg has one of the shortest, most successful bouts of psychotherapy in history. But is it really necessary to affirm the poem's ecstatic footnote ("Holy! Holy! Holy!") with a montage of smiling reaction shots?
The result is a film of passion and ambition, but one whose success is intermittent at best.
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's mostly whiffed docudrama makes the influential poem by Allen Ginsberg (Franco) seem dull, ordinary, pedestrian instead of pioneering.

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