On the Road Reviews
This film is less than the sum of its parts. In his effort to get the feeling of the Beat Generation, director Walter Salles has some quick edits and some free-wheeling music and some of the lines lifted from Kerouac's novel - all cinematic tricks that should work, but yet there's still something staid about this film. Perhaps it's the gravelly voiced Garrett Hedlund, who seems more focused on the image of Sal than the character, or perhaps it's the hackneyed shoe-horn of a script. Or perhaps Kerouac was never meant to be adapted.
Overall, it was worth a shot, but this is one book-to-film adaptation that missed the mark.
One of those films that left me thinking about it long after the lights went off. And the more I did - the more I realized just how good it is.
The acting in here is pretty good. Though the standout for me is really Kristen Stewart, who has been noticeably improving in this department since she's been taking more challenging roles.
There is a duality to these guys' life, particularly Dean's. The adventures are wild and crazy, sometimes even enviable. But it is debatable if Dean is ever actually really happy. Sal seems to have more of a balance. He knows how to have fun (if drugs and one-night stands are your thing) but he also knows how to adjust to regular society and be a decent human being. But that is probably why he, and everyone else, is so drawn to a guy like Dean. Dean has no limits and cares for no one really but himself, when it comes down to it. He comes and goes when he wants to. It's a good character study because you just wonder how Dean has made it all this time without contracting something. But I honestly didn't really care for these characters too much.
An okay road trip movie about a bunch of hedonistic 20-somethings.
There's a lot going on in this film, and I was engaged so thoroughly that I couldn't leave my seat to either go get myself another drink or to use the bathroom because I was too into the film. I adore it and it is one of those rare films that makes me feel alive while watching it. It's not just a generational film of its time, but it still resonates deeply and emotionally.
The story begins in the late 1940's with a young writer named Sal Paradise, who is introduced to a young man named Dean Moriarty, a strange, free-spirited, promiscuous rebel, along with his 16-year-old wife, Marylou. From that first meeting, Sal's young life is turned completely upside down by Dean, even though Sal knows that he's being manipulated by Dean and even calls him a conman.
But, Dean's zest and vigor for life is something that Sal and his friends cannot stay away from, which over the course years takes them on a strange cross country journey meeting strange people, falling in and out of love, sex, drugs, jazz music, philosophical and existential discoveries, a rebellion against the social norms of the time, hopes, dreams, and everything in between.
The storyline is what really had me glued to my seat the whole time. I know that I'm really into a film when I can't even pause it to go take a piss, and this is one of those films that actually pulled off that feat. My description of the plot is far shorter than what the film actually presents, but it's something I feel you should watch and experience to absorb all the details, people, and places it shows the viewer.
It's a story about living life to the fullest and not giving a damn about how society dictates how you should live it, even if it means fiercely rebelling against it. It's also a wild ride that explores the ups, downs, ugly parts, and weird parts of life as young people try to grow up and find their place in the world. In a sense, it's not just about living life, but also about growing up. Hell, there are plenty of other themes to discover as well, if you look hard enough.
The acting is also pretty damn good, including by some performers I wasn't expecting to be any good, like Kristen Stewart, in her performance as Marylou. Hell, there's a whole cast of talented people this film managed to nab, all of whom deliver great performances.
But, the best performances go to Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty and Sam Riley as Sal Paradise. The two actors fully absorbed themselves into their characters, and these are performances that I'm unlikely to forget any time soon because I was so engrossed by their exhilarating performances. They made me believe and I couldn't help but become invested in the lives of their offbeat characters.
As far as entertainment goes, chances are you will hate this film, like most other people who have watched it due to its slow pacing and what some would describe as "too artsy" feel. It seems that everything people hated about this film, I loved about it. I found myself exhilarated by the characters' journey across America (And later on, to Mexico, as well) with all the beautiful sights to see, the people they met, the various cultural differences they encountered, their pondering of life, the sexual escapades, the drugs, the drama - I was absorbed from start to finish and I was also interested and excited to see where the strange characters would take me next. I never got bored and I loved every minute of the journey.
On The Road is a tremendously underrated indie art house flick. It's hard to recommend this to most people, as it is definitely not for everyone and will be too off-putting and slow for most. All I can say is, if you enjoy indie and art house films, at least give it a chance. I can't guarantee you'll derive enjoyment, even if you're into such films, but I think it's something I think should be seen at least once if you like such films. For me, it's an underrated masterpiece of superb storytelling, beautiful imagery, stunning acting, great music, and interesting themes and ideas that made it absolutely engrossing and enamoring to me.