I’m a big fan of Jack Kerouac‘s work and his place in American literature, so I’ve always approached the movies based on him and his projects with a mix of excitement and fear. On one hand, I love seeing his stories brought to life and how different actors interpret him as both a real-world person and a character, but on the other hand, most of the films have been terrible. There have been a few exceptions, sure (“The First Time I Committed Suicide,” for example) but for the most part, they’ve been entirely forgettable.
Last week, I reviewed the latest film based on one of Kerouac’s books: Walter Salles’ “On The Road,” starring Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund as Sal Paradise (Kerouac’s alter ego) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady). Kristen Stewart also appears in the film, but as I mention in the review, her role is more of a marketing maneuver than any sort of validation of her acting chops.
Here’s an excerpt from my review:
Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera showed a remarkable ability to capture the highs, lows, and quiet lulls of the road-trip experience in The Motorcycle Diaries, and with On the Road the duo makes it clear that this was more than just a fortunate pairing of subject matter and filmmakers. There’s a genuine sense of distance-crossing in On the Road that brings the audience along for the ride instead of making them secondhand participants, and the pair carry over the feeling of raw travel that was such an important part of Kerouac’s story.
For their parts, Riley and Hedlund manage to sift through the mess of characterizations Kerouac and Cassady have been saddled with over the years—whether in Kerouac’s accounts or those of his friends, family, and historians—and find the versions of the characters that serve the story best. Hedlund in particular finds the sweet spot in Dean Moriarty (and Neal Cassady) that straddles the line between charismatic companion and selfish jerk, allowing the audience to empathize with Sal’s adoration—and later, frustration—over the course of their time together.
You can read the rest of the review at Metroland.net.