On the Road is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel of the same name. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved”- a quote for Kerouac’s novel. Director, Walter Salles, made sure that this sentiment rings true throughout the entire film which stars Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, and Kristen Stewart.
The film follows the story of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and Dean Moriarty’s (Garrett Hedlund) adventures through road trips, sexual experimentation, free-spirited wandering, wild and crazy partying, testing of friendships, and a longing for love and continuous self-exploration.
Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty) definitely steals the show with his wild ways, boisterous laugh, starry-eyes, and magnetic voice. Although it’s like watching a train wreck to see all his selfish antics, you can’t help but like him. He’s loud, charming, daring, incredibly irresponsible and there’s no limit to what he might do. We vicariously live through him during the film. Likewise, we are constantly watching Sam Riley’s character, Sal Paradise, analyze Dean while safely keeping a distance from him. Their friendship is tested time and time again; but the amount of fun they have together, seems to overshadow any and all of their hardships.
The film contains many quotes from the book used in voice-over to add richness to the film and serve as transitions from scene to scene. They help thread the otherwise disjointed film together. Bringing the many adventures and details of this beloved book to the silver screen posed an obvious challenge for any filmmaker and while Director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) and screenwriter Jose Rivera made a valiant attempt, I felt, at times, like I was watching beautifully constructed sequences rather than a fluid film.
Also detracting from the film was its high profile supporting cast. Despite loving the work of such established actors as Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Terrance Howard, and Kristin Dunst, the added star power served as little contribution to the film’s overall experience. In fact, Kristen Stewart’s awkward performance was perhaps the most distracting element of the film.
Despite this, it was a delight to watch the chemistry of Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund unfold in Sal and Dean. While bumpy at times, I enjoyed this wild ride!
On the Road opens December 21st, 2.5 stars out of 4. Watch the trailer here.