Having had its two stars, James Franco and Jon Hamm, compare the events surrounding Allen Ginsberg’s obscenity trial related to his poem of the same name of the film to the Proposition 8 battle in California, Howl arrives on the scene with a great deal of cache for the indie audience.
Neil Miller at Film School Rejects kicks off his review with what appears the central debate surrounding the film:
The interpretation of art is tricky. In fact, most great works of art are the trickiest because what makes them great is that they can mean different things to different people. This is something I’ve known, but was reinforced by Rob Epstein’s excellent film Howl, which is a commentary on interpretation set against the obscenity trial that catapulted Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem into the national spotlight. This is also something I realized in the peer conversations that followed my viewing of the film — if taken one way, Howl is a great film. If interpreted another, it loses all of its impact.
He goes on to argue that the film can be read either as an interpretation of the art itself or a meditation on interpretations of art. He also expresses great admiration for James Franco’s central performance, something echoed by MTV. Though this wasn’t something completely shared by Cinematical’s Kevin Kelly, who said that Franco “does a decent job in the role when he’s imitating Ginsberg via recordings, but veers off-track in fictionalized moments”.
Kelly also struggles to find as much enthusiasm as that expressed by Miller, arguing:
Interviews discussing the impact of HOWL, photos, recordings (a vintage recording of Ginsberg reading HOWL aloud was actually discovered in 2007), and more of a background would have been more interesting to watch than this unfortunately clumsy approach to adapting one of the quintessential American poems to film.
It’s scepticism is echoed by indieWire’s Eric Kohn, though he is perhaps even less kind:
Although Howl technically didn’t provide Sundance with its opening night film—it was one of two competition films screened on opening night—it reeks of the stigma associated with the aforementioned slot: Poorly executed, socially relevant counterculture fetishization executed with a few familiar faces. Ginsberg says he reached ‘complete control’ with his composition of Howl, but the movie version apparently has none.
At the moment, Howl looks like it could face a rocky road which may have to be driven by the buzz which seems to surround Franco’s performance. He’s getting praise, but the film itself is getting something of a muted response, with many noting that the two directors had originally envisioned the film as a documentary and have possibly become a little confused in their aims.
Freida Pinto has joined Miral, the next film from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director Julian Schabel.
Jon Hamm has joined the cast of the James Franco-starring Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl.
Bryan Singer is considering an adaptation of Freedom Formula, the Radical Comics series.
Someone, somewhere, is planning to make a biopic of the very-recently-decased reality television star Jade Goody.
Cameron Diaz is in final negotiations to star in Swingles, some sort of rom-com about a woman who becomes a wingman to a guy and other stuff and blah blah blah.
Lasse Hallstrom is planning to make a sequel to his My Life as a Dog debut film.
I don’t know too much about the Green Lantern as a character, but I know that the casting rumours at present are giving me no confidence or interest in jumping onto another comic book franchise.
The most recent name thrown out has been Chris Pine, the man about the burst onto the map by playing a young Kirk in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. This has been disputed but his name being bandied around does indicate a desire from the studio to cast someone young and spunky in the role. Elizabeth Rappe on Splash Page notes the screenplay calls for someone at 27 years old, something neither Chris Pine or Anton Yelchin can pull off. Rappe has also listed a few possible other candidates for the role, including David Boreanez.
Her others are much stronger however. Jon Hamm would be significantly older but I would argue this is an actor that changing that age, which doesn’t seem to be integral the the story, would be a worthwhile move for. Nathan Fillion would be even better, bringing a titanic-level of charm to the role, slightly similar to Downey Jr in Iron Man, and a man who has already played superhero and regular heroes in the past. Then she notes Jamie Bamber and Tahmoh Penikett, both veteran of Battlestar Galactica and both deserving of a chance to jump into the quality action movie world.
I am definitely going to need to see a decent lead actor in the role to even remotely peak some interest in the project. I will have nothing more on this with Pine or Yelchin as I honestly can’t see either of them saving anyone or being super-powered.