Early Keanu Reeves And Thomas Jane

Stephen Kay’s The Last Time I Committed Suicide has an amazing cast headlined by a young Thomas Jane as Beat Generation writer Neal Cassady. Loosely inspired by Cassady’s letter to Jack Kerouac, the shifting tale paints Cassady as a young man struggling to choose between a stable family life or sowing his wild oats as a drifter. Despite a stellar cast of future Hollywood stars, the off-beat character study is hampered by a muddled screenplay and pretentious direction.

The movie’s calling card is a cast which includes Keanu Reeves, Adrien Brody, Claire Forlani, Gretchen Mol, and Amy Smart in one of her very first screen roles. Released in 1997 before anyone had heard of those names besides Keanu Reeves, it’s a who’s who of rising Hollywood stars for what is a small movie about an obscure Beat writer from the 1940s.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide is mostly for Beat Generation junkies

Keanu gives one of his best and most understated performances as Cassady’s drinking and pool hall buddy. You immediately notice he drops the Keanuisms from his speech, the right call in a period piece from the ’40s and ’50s. Gretchen Mol catches attention as Cassady’s wild teenage girlfriend. She’s a bundle of energy in the role and her fetching performance turns heads, demanding attention.

Caught between two worlds, Neal Cassady dreams of a wife and future family after his first girlfriend Joan (Claire Forlani) attempts suicide. Longing for the freedom of the road, he struggles choosing between a stable life and the allure of roaming across America as a drifter.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide is about Cassady’s haphazard life as a young man, filled with romantic conquests and penny ante crime. Cassady is portrayed as a fun-loving guy driven by wanderlust, a rebel that doesn’t easily fit into post-war America. He’s a role model of sorts to the Beat Generation, a literary scene that caught on with many influential writers in the ’50s.

A movie like this isn’t really a biopic by any conventional standards. Stephen Kay presents a romanticized portrait of the Beat writer, focusing on the ups and downs of Cassady’s various relationships.

The freewheeling character development for Cassady isn’t terrible but the entire movie doesn’t really hang together as a whole. On their own, each snapshot in Cassady’s life has surprisingly literate dialogue and heart-felt emotion. There are a couple of touching scenes lost in the loose direction. Thomas Jane literally bares all for this role including nudity, he leaves nothing on the table. He’s a charismatic lead in a cast full of future stars.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide is mostly for Beat Generation junkies and fans that want to check out the film’s young stars. Jazz fans will love the music featuring a number of music legends on the soundtrack.

Last Time I Committed Suicide Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Originally released in 1997, for many years the only available DVD for The Last Time I Committed Suicide was a poor pan-n-scan DVD from Universal. While this HD transfer isn’t perfect, the movie arrives in a comfortable 1.78:1 aspect ratio, only a little off its native 1.85:1 projection. How is the transfer otherwise? Decidedly lackluster for a new Blu-ray release, unfortunately. Definition isn’t spectacular and floating black levels affect a few scenes, especially the black-and-white opening.

MVD offers up no information about the film elements. Possibly an older master, it’s soft with washed-out colors and a poor contrast. The grain structure is passable at best, hampered by the older film scan and a mediocre AVC encode. It does not appear to have been filtered. I would guess a new film scan with a proper color correction would produce vastly better results.

A movie like The Last Time I Committed Suicide doesn’t get reissued very often. This is a serviceable presentation at best from unrestored elements. There’s no major film damage but negative specks pepper certain scenes.

Audio

Jazz fans take note, the movie’s musical soundtrack is filled with popular songs from legendary Jazz performers. It’s practically a greatest hits of the genre. Musicians include Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie performing classic songs.

2.0 stereo PCM provides smooth fidelity for the frequent songs in pleasant quality. It’s a dialogue-driven drama, there isn’t much beyond a basic stereo mix in terms of sound design. The satisfactory audio does a decent job without causing problems.

Optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles play in a yellow font.

Extras

The original DVD from Universal many years ago had no special features. Released as part of MVD’s Marquee Collection, the only thing they dig up is the trailer. The Blu-ray is coded for all regions.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide Original Theatrical Trailer (02:27 in SD)

Camino Trailer (02:18 in HD)

Zeroville Trailer (02:27 in HD)

The Dark Trailer (02:52 in HD)

Mr. Jealousy Trailer (02:31 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Thomas Jane leads a star-studded cast in this uneven look at Beat Generation writer Neal Cassady and his many loves.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 47 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: