On the Road (2012)

Director: Walter Salles

Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Tom Sturridge

If you’ve read the novel by Jack Kerouac, you might think that transferring the beatnik adventures and travels to the screen could easily make for a sloppy and confusing film. On the Road is a semi-autobiographical novel based on Kerouac’s journeys across America and his relationships with figures such as Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. However, the film did a great job of capturing the attitudes of the beatniks and creating a non-linear story line that worked and did not make us dizzy.

The film brings us in with the opening line of the novel “I first met Dean…” Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) is a charismatic and tenacious character whose madness seems to allure others to his presence. Through a mutual friend, Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge), Sal (Sam Riley) forms a friendship with Dean and this awakens something inside of him; a longing to roam west. Sal leaves New York with only a few belongings and little money to make the trip across country, encountering different people, drugs, sex, and jazz.

Walter Salles does a great job capturing the overall spirit of the novel into the film in several ways. First of all the beautiful cinematography brings us in to what it is like to hike across raw American country. The landscapes and settings put us right into the middle of the post-World War era. The actors did a great job portraying the free spiritedness of their characters. Hedlund does a wonderful job as Dean, the very center of the whole movie. He convinces us and charms us, and at the same time we know he is insane. Riley also does a notable performance as Sal; raspy voice, ambitious need for adventure. We are able to believe that this could have been Kerouac. Even Kristen Stewart who plays Mary Lou, Dean’s ex-wife, is at her best in this film, showing us that she does indeed have the talent to pull off the sexy yet vulnerable character that she is. The performances, beautiful scenery, music and of course the crazy sex/drug scenes move the plot along in a way that doesn’t drag or kill the story.

Overall, if you are a fan of the book, I believe this film will satisfy your expectations. However, if you go in to this film with no background on it or sense of what the spirit of it is, it might confuse and bore you. I would definitely recommend you giving it a chance though.

Rating: A

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