"There is no Beat Generation ... just a bunch of guys trying to get published" Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) in HOWL.
The opening film at Sundance is a prestigious position to be in: Robert Redford introduces the film, stars are in attendance, and as a result it can be difficult to score tickets. This year was no different with people lining the sidewalk to the theater holding signs asking for extra tickets. However, if you look back at the opening night film for the past few years, you can see that it has never ended up being the most buzzed-about film at the festival: Riding Giants (2004), Happy Endings (2005), Friends With Money (2006), Chicago 10 (2007), In Bruges (2008), and Mary & Max (2009).
Unfortunately, HOWL is in the same boat. And to paraphrase Ginsberg himself: There is no HOWL ... it's just a bunch of scenes trying to be a movie. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet) have moved beyond their normal documentary subjects and tackled the dubious task of turning a classic poem into a feature film, and it falls far short for several reasons. It might have been the hot ticket for opening night, but it got Sundance 2010 off to an extreme clunky start.