Generally favorable reviews - based on 24 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 21 Ratings

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  • Summary: James Franco stars as the young Allen Ginsberg poet, counter-culture adventurer and chronicler of the Beat Generation. In his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out style, Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career, the poem HOWL. Meanwhile, in a San Francisco courtroom, Howl is on trial. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while suave defense attorney Jake Ehrlich argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression. The proceedings veer from the comically absurd to the passionate as a host of unusual witnesses pit generation against generation and art against fear in front of conservative Judge Clayton Horn. (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 24
  2. Negative: 0 out of 24
  1. Reviewed by: Richard Nilsen
    Oct 21, 2010
    This film is a wonderful act of imagination on its own.
  2. 75
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    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.
  4. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    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.
  5. It's well-crafted, but I wish the film showed us an additional dimension or two of the central figure, who once said the great challenge in writing, any kind of writing, is "to write the same way you are."
  6. A movie with no clear narrative. It pushes boundaries and feels like one man's fever dream. But all those traits would certainly make Allen Ginsberg happy.
  7. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's mostly whiffed docudrama makes the influential poem by Allen Ginsberg (Franco) seem dull, ordinary, pedestrian instead of pioneering.

See all 24 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Jan 9, 2011
    howls movie shows the poets life in intriguing mysteries makes you wonder where are all the poets now overall the movie was a bit lackey in some parts but the imagination in the animation makes realize there is life out there 7/10 Expand
  2. Feb 26, 2011
    What a surprise - a thoughtful, creative and very enjoyable film that even a guy with a limited interest in poetry enjoyed. Yet another example of first-rate talent working outside "the system" and with limited funding yet delivering high quality film-making (Kids are Alright, I Love you Phillip Morris, Crazy Heart). One would never think of James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, talk about taking poetic license, but to me this all worked. The animation of poetry was a terrific plus. Try it! Expand
  3. Aug 27, 2011
    Powerfully acted and visually appealing.James Franco is spot on as Allen Ginsberg.An interesting way to convey the poem and the man.Howl feels like a documentary and has the soul of a very personal project. Expand
  4. Nov 20, 2010
    This is not a biopic about poet Alan Ginsberg, but a cinematic interpretation of the titular poem that caused a stir in the art and legal community. It unfolds in several scenarios: Ginsberg (James Franco) reads the poem to a coffee house crowd, the poem is illustrated through animation, he talks to Time magazine (an interview that was never published), there are highlights from the court case that tried the poem as obscenity and a few glimpses into his relationships. If you're not looking for a straight narrative and appreciate artistic cinema, you might like this. Expand