Pioneering gay filmmaker Rob Epstein (Word Is Out, The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet) and his frequent collaborator Jeffrey Friedman set their sights on one of the defining cultural events of the 1950s: the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, which prompted a landmark obscenity trial. Their movie rather awkwardly weaves together three narrative strands: a stiff courtoom drama in which various academics debate the literary and social merits of “Howl”; a biographical sketch of Ginsberg (uncannily impersonated by James Franco) that includes his first public reading of the poem in San Francisco; and animated sequences, designed by Eric Drooker, that objectify (perhaps too literally) Ginsberg’s haunting imagery. The result, though clearly flawed, is passionate and ambitious, celebrating that long-gone era when a book of verse could spark a revolution in consciousness. With David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels, and Treat Williams.