Howl Directed by: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman Written by: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman (screenplay) Starring: James Franco, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, and Jeff Daniels
There’s a moment in Howl, an aesthetically pleasing rumination on the creation and subsequent censorship trial of the infamous poem by Allen Ginsberg, where one of the many expert witnesses called to the stand is asked to explain its meaning. He remarks that you can’t be asked to translate poetry into prose. So it goes for the rest of the movie, where co-directors and co-writers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman take the poetry of “Howl” and the prose of interviews and court trials surrounding it, and weave a film out of it.
Epstein and Friedman have an insistence on historical accuracy from the beginning. The filmmakers go above the call of the common “Based on a true story,” slogan and instead proclaim that all of the dialogue in this film was uttered by the people it’s attributed to. They even go so far as to say that in that sense, it could be read like a documentary. Once you get a glimpse of the finely arranged frames, the shifting color palettes, and the highly-stylized animation sequences, though, you’ll know it’s something else.
Few actresses stay under the radar and still garner as much acclaim as Laura Linney. She hit her hot streak in the 2000’s with rich, respectable roles in small movies. However, she has transcended the “indie darling,” label with struts onto the small screen in John Adams and her new headlining act on Showtime on The Big C. Linney doesn’t just pick movies to make bank. She does projects where the female characters she plays aren’t jokes, even if they tell them. She has a knack for both comedy and drama, but her real gift lies in the middle ground (The Squid and the Whale, The Savages). Few actresses can garner a chuckle and gasp in the same scene, but she does it expertly. Though she often shares the spotlight with gifted male counterparts like Liam Neeson or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, she never lets them steal it. She’s that rare actress that doesn’t try to steal scenes but still ends up doing it quite often.