James Franco plays beat generation poet, Allen Ginsberg in this film named for the classic poem, "Howl".
James Franco, one of the most interesting and complicated young actors working today, is terrific as Allen Ginsberg, the acclaimed poet of the Beat generation whose classic poem "Howl" inspired as many people as it offended. The movie is filmed in three different ways, only two of which work. The best moments are the black-and-white sequences of Ginsberg and such pals as Jack Kerouac during the time he eased into his homosexuality and skyrocketed to fame, and includes a reading of the poem in a coffee house. The eventual trial for obscenity is presented in several, chopped-up segments, and is moderately successful. The film's only flaw is its pretentious attempt to animate the poem itself. Great poetry - like great movies - comes alive on its own, without superfluous efforts to connect all the dots for us.