Film review: On the Road

After decades of false starts and upsets, Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road, has finally hit the big screen.

Oscar Cuadras Galvary

On the Road, a film based on Jack Kerouac’s book of the same name, landed on UK screens last Friday with Walter Salles in the director’s chair, British actor Sam Riley (Control, Brighton Rock) as Sal Paradise and Garrett Hedlund (Tron) as Dean Moriarty.

The movie takes us through the road adventures of young writer, Sal, (a character Kerouac based on himself) and his new wild friend, Dean.

They drive around post-World War II America, experiencing drugs, sex and jazz with an unquenchable thirst for life.

The movie has been strongly criticised by many as being “self-congratulant” and compares the film to any other American teen movie for its focus on young people discovering sex and drugs; it’s nothing new.

I disagree. The beginning may be a bit chaotic, but as our heroes take off to explore the American roads, we start to catch up with the movie’s pace.

As in Salles’ Motorcycle Diaries, the visual side of On the Road is remarkable, especially the landscapes we get to enjoy while Sal and Dean travel from east to west and back again.

The 40s and 50s setting of the film is also well accomplished and the sex scenes are worth a mention.

The acting, though generally decent, falls short as Kristen Stewart fails to sparkle as the sexy and seductive Marylou. Riley, who arguably plays the most difficult role, keeps the film together.

Garrett Hedlund remarkably succeeds in his impersonation of the free and powerful ex-con, Dean. The Dean we see in the movie is, as in the book, an alpha male, often under the influence of drugs or alcohol, who takes life in at 100mph while riding stolen cars.

While reducing the sporadic novel into two hours of viewing time prevents us from getting to the bottom of the characters’ personalities and further developing the themes, the final outcome is spot on.

The film concludes with an amazingly filmed scene of Sal Paradise writing the book as Kerouac himself did it, with an original and visually attractive interpretation of the writer’s personal style.

Taken as a whole, On the Road is definitely one of the great releases of the year.

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