On The Road
- Director:Walter Salles
- Cast:Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Garrett Hedlund, Viggo Mortensen, Elisabeth Moss, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Tom Sturridge
- Release Date:September 27, 2012
- Running time:137 minutes
- Film Worth:$17.00
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It inevitably feels a little episodic translated to screen, but it’s evocative, soulful and captures the lust for life that underpins Kerouac’s classic novel.
In adapting Jack Kerouac’s landmark piece of literature – the long-dubbed “unfilmable” tome – the challenge has always been how to capture the author’s rambling, impulsive but brilliant rush of prose. And while it seems clearer now than ever that nothing can match Kerouac’s voice, director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) does a damn fine job, evocatively but respectfully telling the story of young writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), who hits the road in fifties America in search of experience, adventure, and the alternative lifestyle advocated by his friend and idol, Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund).
As well as Kerouac’s prose, another challenge is the story’s lack of dramatic structure, with the narrative – which contains several road journeys – inevitably feeling episodic when translated to screen. But On The Road is a film that exists more in its moments. And there are some spine-tingling good ones: a wild New Year’s Eve party where Dean and Marylou (Kristen Stewart), dance in a jazzed-up frenzy is thrillingly recreated; a detour to visit Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen) is weirdly intriguing; and a scene in which Marylou gets sexy with both Sal and Dean as they barrel down the highway literally exudes youth and freedom. And while these moments are beautifully shot, it’s the spot-on casting that forms the crux of this film. Especially memorable is Hedlund, who captures Dean’s restless charisma and moments of sad self-awareness, while Stewart is all raw sensuality and melancholy as Marylou.
This adaptation may not “burn, burn, burn” with quite the same intensity as the novel, but it kicks and thrusts with a joy and yearning of its own. And Salles also deftly reveals the limitations of the dream, with Sal and Dean’s final confrontation proving a quiet heartbreaker.