The idea of portraying an openly gay man in the 1950s is juicy — but Howl skews toward sexual yuks, like Neil Cassady's girlfriend walking in on Ginsberg about to blow him. In this often rushed-feeling film, Ginsberg is allowed only a splash of existential longing before finding some fulfillment with his lifelong companion Orlovsky. But is that really fair, or even brave? After Milk, wouldn't it be more courageous for this distinguished team to take on a lesbian activist? A transgender groundbreaker? A queer of color? Or even, gasp, the opportunistic, overexposed, NAMBLA-defending, hustler-gorging, radiantly nudist old man that Ginsberg became?
HOWL opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.