Courageously letting your guard down to show your emotions and prove to your peers you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help better the world, and improve the limitations in society, is a powerfully recurring theme in the new drama, ‘Big Sur.’ The film, which was written and directed by Michael Polish, and will be released on DVD on Long Island on Tuesday, brilliantly captures the influential driving force behind acclaimed Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac as he helped lead the revolution of changing society’s expectations. The movie adaptation of the writer’s novel of the same name also features a powerfully gripping and memorable performance by actor Jean-Marc Barr, who wasn’t afraid to showcase the author’s increasing vulnerability during a time when he was unsure how to handle his fame.
‘Big Sur’ follows Jack as he tries to contend with his ever-growing literary success after the release of his acclaimed novel, ‘On the Road.’ The celebrated author takes three trips to a cabin owned by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Anthony Edwards) in Bixby Canyon in Big Sur. The cabin has not only become a haven to the author, but it’s also an oasis for Beat poets like Michael McClure (Balthazar Getty), Philip Whalen (Henry Thomas) and Lew Welch (Patrick Fischler).
In the midst of his personal revelation, Jack also reflects on his life path and success with his friend, fellow writer Neal Cassady (Josh Lucas) and his wife, Carolyn (Radha Mitchell). Along the way, Neal hesitantly introduces Jack to his mistress, Billie (Kate Bosworth), and the two form a new relationship together.
Jack instantly falls in love with Billie, and envisions what it would be like to have a four-way marriage with her and the Cassadys. However, despite his continued attempts to want to settle down, he doesn’t feel as though he can truly marry her. Before long, Jack falls out of love with Billie, and his transcendence into alcoholism and despair is so rapid that their breakup becomes increasingly bitter.
Barr was exceptionally well cast as the reclusive novelist who willing secluded himself from his adoring fans, who cherished his detailed and intensely personal recollections of his journey to find his true identity. The actor brilliantly captured the harrowing and unexpected difficulties the poet encountered as he sought to bring revolution and change to the way people viewed societal expectations. Despite Jack wanting to make people understand his rejection of modern materialism and the desire to perfectly fit into the preconceived notions of what’s acceptable among their peers, the actor vividly showcased how uncomfortable the writer was in having his readers whole-heartedly rely on him for guidance on how to happily survive.
‘Big Sur’s production designer, Max Biscoe, also creatively emphasized the isolation Jack needed in order to fully come to terms with his powerful influence on his readers’ generation. Lawrence’s welcoming cabin in Big Sur, with its rustic furnishings and buried deep within a spacious forest, perfectly reiterated both Jack’s creative mindset amongst his peers, as well as his need to find relief from the continued expectations placed on him to speak for misguided youth looking to find their way. Biscoe also smartly distinguished the cabin from the other homes Jack stayed in while venturing throughout San Francisco, including Neal and Carolyn’s traditional house, as the two frequently fell back on the hustle of the city to survive.
Polish’s riveting, emotional drama fascinatingly highlights the at-times emotionally painful, but all-too-important, struggle Jack experienced as he tried to find a way to contend with his newfound success. ‘Big Sur’ featured intriguing insight into how the author coped with his newfound fame, particularly after readers embraced the vital themes of satisfying the longing for belief and finding the meaning of life in his acclaimed book, ‘On the Road.’ Barr was smartly cast as the film’s anti-hero, who longed to radically change the world, but was unable to accept the responsibilities that went along with that tremendous burden. Aided by the captivating production design created by Biscoe, the drama perfectly showcases how one person’s continuous struggle to change the world can dramatically alter them.