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The Last Time I Committed Suicide

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If you're making a movie about one of the truly charismatic cultural icons of the 20th century, you should be sure to a) cast an actor who is actually charismatic, and b) choose an episode from his life that is actually interesting. Writer-director Stephen Kay strikes out on both accounts with The Last Time I Committed Suicide, a movie based on a letter written by Neal Cassady, who inspired the character of Dean Moriarity in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Thomas Jane plays Cassady, and though he fights through his own limitations to give the character occasional sparks of life, he's also a completely forgettable presence, not nearly equal to the epic personality of this Beat Generation giant. Even Keanu Reeves, another famously stiff actor, registers more than Jane does here. Granted, Kay's script doesn't do either of them any favors. As much as it's about anything, The Last Time I Committed Suicide deals with Cassady's relationship to a lover who tried to kill herself (Claire Forlani). The film seemingly aspires to contrast her self-destructive impulses with Cassady's love of life, the very characteristic that defines him as a marrow-sucking, car-stealing, adventure-seeking rascal. But Forlani's underdeveloped character appears only at the beginning and the end of the story, leaving a murky middle in which Cassady and his cohorts play pool, go joy-riding, and talk about their vague yearnings and philosophies. The film's biggest cheat is that provocative title, which seems to reference Forlani's character. But that doesn't make any sense, given that the script is based on a letter from Cassady to Kerouac. Only later is the title revealed to be a line from that letter, functioning as an overdramatic metaphor for an opportunity Cassady feels he missed by yielding to temptation. Really, it's this film that misses its opportunity. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide

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