Director: Walter Salles
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, and Kristen Stewart
Based on Jack Kerouac’s famous road novel, On the Road follows the life of would-be writer Sal Paradise on his travels back and forth across 1940s America in the company of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his sixteen year-old wife, Marylou. The trio travel the length and breadth of the country, meeting a series of poets, musicians and prostitutes on their journey.
Sam Riley’s performance as protagonist and narrator Sal is played with an excellent sense of quiet desperation, although he is ultimately over-shadowed by Garrett Hedlund’s wild and exciting Dean Moriarty. The big surprise in this film however, is Kristen Stewart; Freed from the monotony of her role in the Twilight Saga, the actress finally manages to give a credible performance as the fiery Marylou.
For once, an adaptation of a novel has been made which actually sticks to the original text, both in tone and plot. However, this in itself is not necessarily a good thing. Like the novel, On the Road drags in places, and there are places where the continual cycle of wild parties, drug-fuelled sex scenes, domestic arguments and philosophical conversation wears thin. At the same time, some of the less likeable characters from the novel are downright irritating in their onscreen incarnation.
For all its faults in pacing, the film’s use of sound and visuals is invariably stunning. The seedy motel rooms and dank alleys of Depression-era America are interspersed with artistic shots of motorways passing by underfoot and stunning American vistas, accompanied with voice-overs taken directly from Kerouac’s novel. Meanwhile, the use of music from the period is one of the movies’s highlights, adding to the vibrancy of the film.
While at times meandering and seemingly directionless, On the Road, remains a beautifully shot piece of cinematography.