• Desolation Angel
  • Drama Scouted Available Unrepped
  • 77.9
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Loglines
In 1956, young Jack Kerouac nears a make-or-break moment in his career just as addiction takes control of him, so he makes the bold decision to take a solo lookout job on a mountain to try to kick drugs. In a series of dark visions, ghosts of his young life and early career confront him as the temptation to use drugs looms.
In 1956, Jack Kerouac rides into the Cascade Mountains to be a fire lookout, hoping the isolation will enable him to quit his drug addictions, yet he is haunted by hallucinations of his past memories and trauma.
Severely crippled by heroin addiction, Beat writer Jack Kerouac ascends to a mountain lookout in the Cascades, intent on beating his dependency in self-imposed isolation. As intense withdrawals and the harsh elements batter him, his past begins to haunt him, from his early struggles after his brother’s death to his wild plight to get published alongside friend and contemporary Allen Ginsberg.
Format
Genres
Drama, Historical, Biopic, Alcohol, Character Study, College/University, Drugs, Dysfunctional Family, Father/Son, Illness, Psychodrama, Suspenseful, Writer/Writing
Pages
120
Rated
R
Budget
Medium
Lead
M White 34 Attractive
Similar
Howl, Kill Your Darlings, Capote, 127 Hours, Beat, Total Eclipse, Little Ashes, Sylvia, Fur, Into The Wild, Buried, Walk The Line
When
1956 / Flashbacks to 1940s-1950s
Where
Mostly set in the United States, including: Marin County, California, Cascade Mountain cabin, river, Lowell Massachusetts, college football stadium, Columbia University, Greenwich village, clubs, bars, publishing office, burlesque theater. Some scenes set in Mexico.

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Synopsis
In Marin County, ALLEN GINSBERG (30) tells JACK he cannot go cold turkey to curb his drug addictions.

In the Cascade Mountains of Washington, 1956, JACK KEROUAC (34) rides to the top of Desolation Peak. The DRIVER gives him water and shows him where he will spend 63 days as a fire lookout, desperate to get rid of his drug and alcohol addictions. The driver warns him about his predecessor’s fate.

Jack is left alone in the cabin until September. Later, he has a flashback to visiting a Catholic shrine as a child along with his ill brother GERARD (9) and MOTHER in 1926 Lowell. Gerard dies and they hold a Catholic funeral.

As a teenager, Jack plays football in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is offered a football scholarship to Boston College, and Jack’s FATHER expresses criticism that Jack wants to be in New York where all the publishing houses are. Jack chooses to attend Columbia.

While at Columbia, Jack plays football and meets ALLEN GINSBERG (16), who is bullied, and they bond over literature. Jack gets injured and loses his future in football, and his addiction to morphine begins. 

Allen expresses concern about Jack’s use of painkillers and his drinking. The two start to pursue...
Reader 1 Comments
OVERALL (RECOMMEND)
This account of Jack Kerouac’s ascent towards his first major success as a writer, one that sees him plagued by addiction, features an interesting take that frames an otherwise classic approach to his life with a mystical battle against dark visions on a mountaintop. A well-characterized and driven protagonist falls to his personal flaws, but is active in his success and has some compelling relationships with other luminaries. The famous characters are often well rendered through dialogue that captures their style but doesn’t turn them into outsized versions of themselves. For the most part, conflict is dependent on one major source—a somewhat abstract battle of imagined personal demons—but the stakes are nonetheless applicable in the protagonist’s real world and somewhat in his career. Overall, the material has a couple of important themes that resonate within the character’s context and his arc, and it feels personal enough to be memorable, rather than simply being a rehash of the big events in a well known historical figure’s life....
Reader 2 Comments
OVERALL (CONSIDER)
In “Desolation Angel,” a biographical drama about American writer Jack Kerouac, Kerouac heads into the Cascade Mountains to spend a few months trying to write and detox from drugs, but as we see scenes of his upbringing and struggles to become a writer and he tries to survive in the isolated cabin, he is troubled by memories of his past that continue to appear as hallucinations. This portrait of Kerouac offers profound insight into his upbringing, failed football career, and early efforts to get published, and explores his relationship with Ginsberg and other writers as well as the guilt and emotional trauma he feels as the result of his family. This script captures the distinctive literary voices of its various writer characters, and takes an innovative approach to Kerouac’s story in its fragmented structure as he is haunted by spectral visions. Kerouac is a flawed and multifaceted protagonist, and it is compelling to follow his efforts to make it as a writer and overcome intense guilt and addiction. Some of the structure and conflict could benefit from a bit more time devoted to Kerouac’s time at Desolation Peak rather than giving quite so much focus to flashbacks, but the script weaves together its plot threads well and develops the relationship between Jack and his brother Gerard, as well as his dedication to fighting his addiction, in more depth than previous revisions. Overall, “Desolation Angel” is a dark and emotional look at the life and personal demons of a famed American writer....
Reader 3 Comments
OVERALL (CONSIDER)
“Desolation Angel” is a biopic that follows legendary writer Jack Kerouac as he takes up on a remote mountain in 1956, attempting to kick his drug addiction, and is haunted by ghosts of people from his past as a struggling writer. A strong premise that utilizes two parallel plots that eventually converge explores the character’s innermost struggle, albeit keeping its exact nature a mystery until the climax, while confronting him with concrete, life-or-death obstacles. A well-structured and paced plot makes good use of the tension it manages to build and sustain, and delivers a climax and resolution that’s keenly matched to both the plot and its themes. Various strengths remain somewhat under-emphasized, although this doesn’t affect the strong execution as much as it seems like an additional and exciting opportunity lost. Nonetheless, “Desolation Angel” is well on its way to becoming an engaging and affecting biopic worthy of its legendary subject....