Director Michael Polish strips the pseudonyms used in Kerouac’s novel and gives the characters their real names – making this almost biographical instead of fictional. Kerouac (played wonderfully by Jean-Marc Barr) can’t stand the fact that “On the Road” has gotten him so much attention. The press and the fans won’t leave him alone. He’s become the leader of the “Beat Generation,” and he doesn’t like it. So, he escapes from his New York residency to California for three weeks. But it’s not what he expected at all.
Whether you know the Kerouac material or not, it’s undeniable that Polish is a master with his imagery. 90 percent of “Big Sur” is occupied by voice-over narration, giving it that sort of Malick-feel. And while the film kind of rushes through its development, Polish does create a solid telling of fragmented relationships – be they love or close friendship. It also shows how one man’s rise can become a sudden and dizzying fall through personal judgments.
There are some great performances by Josh Lucas and Radha Mitchell as Neal and Carolyn Cassady, but it’s Kate Bosworth’s Billie – the mistress of Neal – who steals her scenes. Bosworth is ferocious, and her conversations with Barr sting.
Unfortunately, the DVD is devoid of any special features. The picture and sound are fine, but it would have been nice to get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Big Sur.”