Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Beat Classic 'On The Road' Comes To The Screen In Lustrous-But-Long-Winded Fashion

The Playlist By James Rocchi | The Playlist December 18, 2012 at 6:34PM

Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" has been heralded for decades: an important novel, a cultural signifier, a sociological landmark, a cracking good read. It's also been considered "unfilmable" -- but now Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries," "Dark Water") brings the novel to the screen, and "The Motorcycle Diaries" turns out to be a pretty good template for understanding how Salles has shot his adaptation. "On the Road," like 'Diaries,' is scenic and episodic, full of youth's passion but with a shade of the future yet to come dimming the brightness of its vision, as a charismatic young man travels with another young man, saying little but watching everything along the way.
0
On The Road Riley Hedlund

Note: This is reprint of our review of the slightly longer cut that played at the Cannes Film Festival.

Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" has been heralded for decades: an important novel, a cultural signifier, a sociological landmark, a cracking good read. It's also been considered "unfilmable" -- but now Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries," "Dark Water") brings the novel to the screen, and "The Motorcycle Diaries" turns out to be a pretty good template for understanding how Salles has shot his adaptation. "On the Road," like 'Diaries,' is scenic and episodic, full of youth's passion but with a shade of the future yet to come dimming the brightness of its vision, as a charismatic young man travels with another young man, saying little but watching everything along the way.

If there's one thing that wounds "On the Road," it's that the film is full of things -- having sex, doing drugs, being free -- that are far more enjoyably experienced by one's self as opposed to watching other people enjoy them on screen; even when the free-living, debauched events on screen are at their highest --or lowest, like when the group smashes medical inhalers to make Benzedrine tea, or when a heroin addict nods off with his child in his comatose arms -- you still feel pressed against the glass on the other side of the shop window from the goodies.

Kristen Stewart, On The Road

Sam Riley is Sal Paradise, Kerouac's stand-in for himself in the novel; Garret Hedlund is Dean Moriarty, based on Neal Cassady, the freewheeling and irresponsible sensation-seeker who pulls Sal into his wake. Riley has to carry the burden of being the viewpoint character, a position that always seems more passive on film than it does in print; people expecting the charismatic fireworks of his work in "Control" will be disappointed. But as Hedlund's previous work -- except for the wretched "Tron: Legacy" -- has demonstrated, he's a young actor with charisma and skill, making Dean both engaging and reprehensible.

Kristen Stewart is Dean's paramour Marylou, and seeing her liberated from the silly straitjacket of servile moping she has to perform in the "Twilight" films is a huge relief. (A friend joked that Stewart's character's bed-hopping, nudity and overall sexual licentiousness were just the universe compensating her for all the chaste charmlessness she has to embody as Bella in the "Twilight" films.) And Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams play the book's stand-ins for William S. Burroughs and Jane Vollmer with drugged-up grit and gravel, a cautionary tale about to happen. (A spacey-eyed Adams gets the film's best non-sequitur when the pilgrims drop in for a visit, brandishing a broom and heading for the yard: "Excuse me: lizards").

Viggo Mortensen, On The Road

And so we watch our hobohemians drive and steal and dance and screw looking for "IT," their highest point of alive-ness and cool, all of it beautifully shot. And yet you can't help but wish that Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera had focused less on the stories in the book and more on the story of the book -- its writing, its reception, the publisher making Kerouac change the names of the real parties concerned and his edits, the 6-year gap between its being written and its being published.  Cinematographer Eric Gautier ("Into the Wild," "A Christmas Tale") does incredible work, but after a while the film feels like any other roadtrip -- no matter how beautiful the scenery flickering by through the window, eventually you just want to get out of the goddamn car. Salles may have pulled off the achievement of faithfully adapting Kerouac's novel, but as episodes blur and bleed between each other with scenery as punctuation, you might find yourself wishing for a little less literary fidelity and a little more cinematic storytelling. [B]

This article is related to: On The Road, Review, Walter Salles , Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates