***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!
Howl - 4 out of 5
It would be easy to make a film about Allen Ginsberg and the infamous obscenity trial about his poem Howl but if you're going to do a film about one of America's greatest poets, you better make it as creative as the man's own voice.
That's exactly what filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman did when they created Howl.
The film focuses mostly on the trial itself and when Ginsberg first debuted the poem in 1955. Events are never told in the order they occur but rather thrown together in a disorderly--BUT orderly--fashion. Events taking place in the trial are shown in color and while Ginsberg's early life show in gritty black and white. While this technique is quite simple, it's able to express words beyond measure as it not only gives the feel of an older, simpler time (hence black and white) but is an easier way to illustrate to the audience the time period this particular segment of the film is taking place without having to actually spell it out for the viewer. By showing these scenes in black and white it also works to give the scenes in the trial more depth as it is able to depict how something as simple as a poem can shake the foundation of the way people see their world. Forced to experience something beyond their comfort zone, they have to see the world isn't the sharp contrast of dark and light they once believed...or maybe the directors just like to play with the cinematography of the film.
To make this film even more interesting to view is the visual dance the film gives you as Ginsberg recites the controversial poem. Animated sequences of cartoons that could easily belong in a Pink Floyd video grace the screen as Ginsberg (played by James Franco) reads aloud. These sequences are beautiful and seem to be the icing on an already delicious cake.
James Franco plays the famed poet who sparked a literary revolution and, like every role this young man plays, he knocks it out of the park. I'm starting to get the idea that there is literally not a single part this guy CAN'T play. Franco is also joined by two men who are not only great actors but have terrific scenes with each other in the court room. John Hamm plays Jake Ehrlich the attorney in charge of defending the publication of Ginsberg's poem against David Strathairn playing Ralph McIntosh, the man who desires the censorship of the art. Their scenes together aren't your typical courtroom drama with passions flaring like suns going supernova but are restrained and absolutely captivating.
Unique and creative, Howl tells a historical story in a non-typical fashion. With great acting, tantalizing visuals, and an engaging story, this film is very entertaining and worth the watch.