Critics agree the film doesn’t capture the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s Beat novel.
By Fallon Prinzivalli
Kristen Stewart hit the 2012 Cannes Film Festival to debut her latest film, “On the Road.” Adapted from Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation novel, the film centers on writers Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) as they journey across America with Dean’s wife, Marylou (Stewart), living in a whirlwind of sex, drugs and writing.
Despite the American classic being considered unadaptable, director Walter Salles took on the ambitious project, much to the dismay of critics. While they say the movie remains faithful to the book, they feel the film version lacks the spark Kerouac carried throughout the novel.
“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 road trip — no matter how beautiful the scenery flickering by through the window is, eventually you just want to get out of the god—- 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.” — James Rocchi, Indiewire
Director Walter Salles
“With a romantic like Salles at the wheel we weren’t expecting ‘On the Road’ to hold a mirror to today’s disenfranchised American youth. But we weren’t expecting such a tedious, flat film either. Ultimately that’s the price paid for failing to tone down the narcissistic, shallow tendencies of the characters — although it doesn’t account for just how few memorable scenes there are (with the exception of K-Stew’s boobies and Hedlund nailing a sherried Steve Buscemi). You can keep the Zeitgeist embalmed in myth and nostalgia for as long as you like, but to truly reinvigorate it you’ll need a whole lot more than a whiskey-hued lens and a frontseat full of pretty faces.” — Adam Woodward, Little White Lies
“Salles gets excellent performances from his cast, which includes Viggo Mortensen as the William Burroughs figure and Kirsten Dunst as the girl Cassady married after finally breaking up with Marylou. However, he struggles to give his story the strong dramatic line it requires and concentrates instead on sequences which illustrate the book best. What we do get, thanks to Riley’s perceptive performance, is the sense that he is watching Cassady tasting life before he gingerly partakes.” — Derek Malcolm, London Evening Standard
The Final Word
“Many have speculated that ‘On the Road,’ Jack Kerouac’s seminal beat novel, is unadaptable for the screen, and Walter Salles’ game attempt suggests that this may indeed be the case. Despite its pretty cast and sun-ripened colours, the film quickly settles into a tedious looping rhythm of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) experiencing some kind of beatnik debauchery with co-wanderers Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Marylou (Kristen Stewart), before retiring to a shady corner and scribbling wildly in a notebook. Neither the journey nor the destination seems to matter a jot.” — Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
” ‘On the Road’ does, ultimately, have a touching kind of sadness in showing how poor Dean is becoming just raw material for fiction, destined to be left behind as Sal becomes a New York big-shot. But this real sadness can’t pierce or dissipate this movie’s tiresome glow of self-congratulation.” — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
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