So I bought this dazzling blu-ray of a movie based on a book that's really not about anything. One big bore fest? Yeah sure, let's go with that.
A boring movie. A movie about nothing. Nothing happens except Dean Moriarty having lots of sex with men and women, and he and his group of friends (including ol' Sal Paradise) indulging in drugs. Drugs and promiscuous sex. Is that what you think of when you read/learn about the beat generation? And this movie is about Dean and only Dean, played pretty well by Garrett Hedlund. Our narrator, y'know, the guy who travels and writes this book called On the Road named Sal Paradise aka Jack Kerouac himself, just observes and interjects prose now and then via voice-over narration. He's played by Sam Riley, whom some of us may remember from a little movie called Control which was about the Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. I don't know why but when he talks in this film I want to punch him. He was good in Control, however, only because he kept his mouth shut the majority of the time (and lip-synced to Ian Curtis' vocals). Or maybe his recital of Kerouac's words made me think both he and the author are full of themselves.
This adaptation is lifeless, soulless, almost like a quick check-list of people, places, and events that Kerouac came across. And none of it is at all interesting, at least how the movie envisions these moments. And do the dates or settings matter? These guys do the same shit over and over. They travel, have fun, drink booze, fire up a doobie, dance to jazz, have sex (sometimes orgies), work for chump change, shoplift to make ends meet, repeat: place after place, year after year. They don't learn anything. Not Sal, not Dean, not Marylou...
It made me wonder if the book was anything special. I first read Jack Kerouac's book about maybe six years ago during a short-lived beatnik phase of mine. I can't recall much about the book. Does that mean I should like it less? Oh, how I wish I saved my myspace blogs wherein you'd find a short review of the book On the Road. But taking a quick glance at it (you can find anything online, really), the book is, daresay I, like what Truman Capote said. "That's not writing, that's typing." Reads like a transcription of his notes, word for word, and interjecting those moments of creativity now and then. The Beats influenced a generation and I'm glad for that. We probably wouldn't have Dylan, Lou Reed, Nirvana, and so forth. In a way, they also inspired me to write and here I am rambling on a keyboard, taking English courses and scribbling down unimportant thoughts and events. I'm being too self-depreciating. But did the book have anything remarkable to say? Not really and usually reading a book once I'm able to recall at least a few memorable passages or chapters. Maybe I'm getting old and too conservative.
One thing I like about these written words (and the movie) is the atmosphere they create. Post-WWII, the Cold War, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, propaganda films, Red Scare, Iron Curtain, and so on. Repressive times they were. Times of scrutiny and prevalent prejudice and laws that encouraged these malpractices. A blind public. Well, that's what the history books like to say (or how I like to interpret this period), and going unnoticed were these folk who set out West to... to... I dunno. The movie doesn't specify. Maybe there was too much emphasis on free-spirited white folk. Y'know. Hippies. It's too hippie and not beatnik enough. I said hippie, not hipster although these guys have the hipster look down to a T. Yeah, the Beats pretty much paved the road for hippies to bloom so blame these guys.
I might turn my thoughts around once this English class of mine gets to talking about the Beat movement. Perhaps reinvigorate that youthful flame one more time...
...Sorry, I'm getting too personal and way off topic, but it's all relevant to some degree. I think if this film was released six years ago, or if I was six years younger (thus reliving my beatnik glory), I most likely would have praised this film in spite of his negativity. I do recall that Kerouac does a lot in the book and travels a lot, but I'm dismayed that how the film just short cuts and passes through like the landscape when driving. And a lot of the scenery in this film is rather... uninspired. Kerouac traveled Route 66, if only for a brief moment. Show the mother road. Show the cities, not just the bars. Show memorable landmarks. I know, I know. This is an independent film thus has a tiny budget but at least try to depict the West, the desert, in all its arid beauty. This film is a drag, man. A big disappointment. And I'm stuck with the blu-ray.