On the Road Reviews
I tried reading "On the Road" once. I honest to God tried. I couldn't finish it, because it bored me to tears. There's a lot of rambling musings of strung out poets that sound a lot more profound than they are. These are the kind of guys you meet at parties that are sitting in the corner, surrounded by a small crowd of half-plastered listeners, as they drone on about how "light is darkness man. We're all just on a cosmic loom. You're all zombies, man! Somnambulist droves of ambulatory automatons (etc. etc. etc...)" Stuff that sounds deep and meaningful that will end up on some stoner's dorm room poster one day. I was hoping that the film would perhaps capture my attention in a more meaningful way.
It did not. But at least I was able to finish it this time.
I understand that this story is loved by a great deal of people. Its all about experiencing life, letting go of your inhibitions, finding true freedom, yadda yadda. What bothers me the most is that through the whole meandering 2-hour runtime, our main character never has any real goal, except for a vague search for Dean's father, and from beginning to end, none of the characters really change all that much. Maybe that's all fine and good for a story that is "like real life," and this just captures a few moments in time, but for crying out loud, this is a movie, and we need SOMETHING to hold on to to keep us invested in this plot. We only seem to jump from meet up to meet up between Dean and Sal, where they then proceed to get wasted, talk to each other in ways that no humans actually speak, listen to music, get seriously lit up, then have an orgy.
Maybe its a metaphor for the free-flow of creativity. These little wispy nuggets of inspiration come careening out of the infinite and onto the page, seemingly from nowhere, and we all just need to hear about it in a movie. Ya dig?
It's not all bad, though. The movie is filmed very well, particularly the sequences when they are traveling. These scenes actually do make me want to pack up and hit the road, just for the feeling of an open highway and unknown destination. That IS fun. I get that.
The music was subtle and beautiful, orchestrated by the talented Gustavo Santaolalla (Into the Wild, Brokeback Mountain, The Last of Us) and accompanied the travel sequences well.
Garrett Hedlund as Dean channels an early 90's Brad Pitt (which is interesting, considering that at one time, Brad Pitt was in talks for this very role.) He's very charismatic and charming, but also kind of a sleazy weasel. That's fun to say.
There is a surprisingly strong performance by Kirsten Dunst, of all people. I've always had a soft spot for her since I saw "Drop Dead Gorgeous" years ago, and Jumanji before that, but I hadn't seen her in anything recently, so that was a welcome surprise.
But then... there was Kristen Stewart. Oh, Kristen. When will you make a good movie? Yes, you were better in this than in Twilight, I'll give you that. But my goodness, you are not great at this acting thing.
There is also a disappointing and inexplicably weird role by Viggo Mortensen. At one point, he strips down and climbs into some kind of cupboard in the woods, claiming it has healing properties. Meanwhile, Amy Adams uses a broom to sweep lizards out of a tree. Wasn't quite sure what to do with that.
This is not a great movie. I insisted on giving it a fair chance, but it's not any better than the book, and it made for a somewhat meandering waste of time. It looks nice, and wasn't terribly acted by about half the cast, but you can find a better way to spend an evening. Check out Game of Thrones or something. Have you watched True Detective yet? You should, it's super great.
If there's a message then maybe it's that the road is escape. Keep moving and you don't have to face your realities, but you can't stay on the road forever. I've not read the book in many years but could imagine doing so again. I don't expect to watch this film again.