Really, I want to like this movie. Ginsberg comes off as kind of a dick at times. This may be Franco’s fault, or it may really be Ginsberg. Franco, if I know two things about him, is a great actor and a dick.
From Roger Ebert:
What feels right about “Howl” is that it is set before those days, before the beard and the mysticism and Tibet and the public persona and the levitating of the Pentagon. The bold, outspoken man of later days is seen here as still a middle-class youth, uncertain of his gayness, filled with the heady joy of early poetic success, learning how to be himself.
There is an uncertain attempt to animate some passages from “Howl,” based on the miscalculation that the poem’s striking imagery needs visuals, not words, to be realized.
These animated bits are what ultimately make the film difficult to enjoy. Trying to realize Howl visually is as absurd as asking what’s happening in the poem, and what does it mean?