Guest 127 Hours & Howl Review: Seth Adcock’s James Franco Mash-Up

13 Dec

With Oscar-season on the brink of overflow, one actor is proving his might more than just about anyone else right now. The great James Franco hits the screen in two very big and powerful ways this winter. In Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, he plays famed 21st’ century wilderness bad-ass, Aron Ralston, while in the Rob Epstein/Jeffrey Friedman film, Howl, Franco takes on the role of one of the most-fabled and renowned of the Beat Poets, Allen Ginsberg. Both movies portray, very realistically, the true stories of its characters, and each film focuses on very specific incidents in the lives of the great Protagonists. So, let’s talk about them!

127 Hours

Danny Boyle has been one of my favorite directors for as long as I can remember. The creativity surrounding his movie-making is limitless, and he consistently proves himself as a director filled with imagination, unafraid to take on a vast variety of different topics. 127 Hours is a textbook-perfect example of Boyle-style. Loaded with gripping imagery, the deeply-factual survival story surrounding Aron Ralston’s hiking accident in 2003 is, quite simply, the stuff of legend. Everyone remembers hearing the story of ‘the guy in Utah that got stuck climbing and cut his arm off’, so, who better than Boyle to build the framework for such a graphic and convicting tale? Accompanied by James Franco, who stands alone on screen for its majority, the pairing of actor and director could not be any better. Focusing almost entirely on the events surrounding the accident-itself, Franco has no trouble taking command of the movie-screen. It is entirely his, and despite the graphic-nature and riveting subject-matter, he succeeds in providing brief instances of humor and comic relief. With the occasional flashback providing insights into the background of Ralston’s life, the audience unavoidably connects with the character on an even deeper level. I was lucky enough to catch an advanced screening of the film at the Esquire Theater here in Denver. As the story reached its climactic finale, I glanced behind me into the eyes of a fully enthralled audience. Hands clasped over mouths, men sitting wide-mouthed at the edge of their seats, young women fighting back a wealth of tears…127 Hours is certainly not for the faint of heart. However, that is the ultimate aim of the film itself; our infinite determination and will to survive; the heroic triumph of the human spirit.


From epic survival story to controversial 50’s poetry, Franco’s other starring role this holiday season sees the actor in a very different light. Taking on the role of Allen Ginsberg, the film Howl focuses almost entirely on the divisive publication of the poet’s most famous work. Jumping between Ginsberg interviews, vivid animations and courtroom drama, Howl (mostly) succeeds in telling the true story of how the poem came to be, and what caused such uproar to begin with. Franco plays a pitch-perfect Ginsberg, especially during interview scenes that set up the basis of the poem. The mannerisms, movements and vocal structure are all incredible; another amazing testament to the diversity of the actor. The film touches briefly on the roles of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady in the author’s life, but it doesn’t really provide much. The bulk of the film comes from multiple readings of the poem itself, presented in several different scenarios, and the historic courtroom battle that put City Lights Books publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti on trial. There are brief appearances here by several A-List actors, but again, their presence really doesn’t contribute a whole lot. Mary-Louise Parker takes the stand attacking the book in a brief, forgettable performance. (I’ve never been much for this woman. Is Weeds seriously still going on?) Jeff Daniels is also there, assailing Ginsberg’s text, but it is the great Donald Draper, errrr, Jon Hamm who seeks to do the work justice. It is really difficult for me to perceive Jon Hamm as anyone beside his Mad Men character. In Howl, he appears to be playing a very similar persona; the persuasive gifted powerhouse whose job it is to convince you of something. The closing arguments presented in the courtroom by Hamm are just a bit too over the top.  Devote followers of Ginsberg may ultimately leave the film a little disappointed. It is certainly not a biographical epic about the poet’s life, but it is a very creative and insightful look at the words that made this man such a literary staple.

Neither of these films could have succeeded without the grit and integrity of such an actor as James Franco. It is truly time to see this man come into his own, and an Oscar-nomination should certainly be around the bend for him this season. Make no mistake; we have seen him come a long way from the days of Freaks and Geeks. Franco is at last coming into his own, and he is here to stay.


Seth Adcock


2 Responses to “Guest 127 Hours & Howl Review: Seth Adcock’s James Franco Mash-Up”

  1. Doctor Jones December 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    I need to see Howl. I loved 127 Hours.

  2. catchthosefoxes December 17, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    I feel like I haven’t seen a movie in the theater in a very long time, with the exception of Harry Potter…yes I agree. It’s time to see 127 Hours. Excellent post, my friend.


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