A doc that shows Kerouac's emotional turbulence
By Matt Connolly
One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur
Directed by Curt Worden
At Clearview-Chelsea Theatres
Runtime: 97 min
The fact that Jack Kerouac's Big Sura searing and unsentimental
account of the author's messy emotional and mental breakdown
following the success of On the Roadhas inspired so bald-faced a
piece of hagiography as Curt Worden's One Fast Move or I'm Gone:
Kerouac's Big Sur is a choice irony. There's nothing inherently bad
about the documentary about the real-life events that eventually
culminated in the classic; it's just that there's little revelatory
in it either. If you go in thinking that Jack Kerouac was a troubled
guy but one hell of a writer, that's about all you'll take out as well.
Worden traces the well-known trajectory of Kerouac's post-On the Road
career. Launched into the limelight and idolized as the voice of the
Beat generation in 1957, Kerouac gradually grew cynical and
disaffected by his own lionization. Feeling himself sinking deeper
into alcoholism, he fled to friend and Beat poet Frank Ferlinghetti's
cabin in Big Sur to rest his mind and dry out his body. As anyone who
has read Big Sur knows, though, this isolation brought a whole new
kind of inner torment.
The line between historical fact and its fictional retelling is
frequently traversed throughout One Fast Move: apt for a film about
so unflinchingly autobiographical a novel. As friends of
Kerouacincluding Ferlinghetti and Carolyn Cassady, the wife of close
Kerouac confidante Neal Cassady and object of Kerouac's
affectiondiscuss the events that became the book's plot, artists
ranging from Sam Shepard to S.E. Hinton to Tom Waits read from and
reflect upon the novel and its impact on their lives. It's no dig at
the effect that Big Sur has had upon subsequent generations of
writers, musicians, and othersDar Williams' tearful reading of a
select passage is quite movingto say that hearing people talk about
why a book is great usually ends up meaning a great deal to the
speaker and making the listener wish they could just pick up the damn
thing and read it themselves. These heartfelt but increasingly
repetitious testimonials to Kerouac's genius outnumber the
more-intriguing anecdotes from the writer's social circle, as when
Cassady wryly informs us that any amorous advances her character
makes in Big Sur were actually initiated by Kerouac in real life.
One Fast Move often has a nice, shaggy-dog quality, as when Worden
assembles multiple interviewees in a coffee shop or around a campfire
and lets them riff about their relationship with Kerouac and Big Sur.
Ultimately, though, his aesthetics feel redundant and occasionally
pedestrian. This is one of those movies where someone reading about
the ocean in voiceover is accompanied by pretty shots of…the ocean.
Such moments are microcosms of the film as a whole: earnest,
pleasant, utterly obvious, and kind of dull.