The Last Time I Committed Suicide

Based on a letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac describing events in Denver in the mid-40s, this independent effort (1996) by writer-director Stephen Kay offers a moderate amount of beefcake (basically Thomas Jane as Neal), some overacting (by Keanu Reeves as a pool hall compadre), a lot of arty lighting, samplings of jazz records made during the 40s and 50s (to provide atmosphere rather than to be listened to, by us or the characters), and at least three dolled-up heroines (Claire Forlani, Marg Helgenberger, Gretchen Mol) who tend to swoon whenever Neal’s around. The period detail is heaped on self-consciously but not really felt, though the beat mystique as experienced through Cassady’s all-American euphoria actually gets evoked in spots, along with the sadness that usually goes with it. (JR)

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