One night budding writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), befriends Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and his girlfriend Marylou (Kristen Stewart). The three decide to hit the open and road and travel across the United States of America, where they encounter various people (those ‘mad to live’ ones) that impact on their journey, lives and creativity.
On The Road is the film version of Jack Kerouac’s iconic 1957 book. Screen adaptations of famous works has never been an easy undertaking and this movie is no different. Director Walter Salles attempts to capture the spirit and style of the book, which is demonstrated by Riley and Hedlund in the lead roles, but does it truly succeed?
The two actors play very well off each other and give impressive performances. Their witty sparring really comes alive (at times), especially, when they are out on the town searching for amourous kicks.
Another major asset the film boasts is the cinematography by Eric Gautier. It’s incredibly impressive and beautifully done. There are many wondrous scenes of wide open spaces, either on the road or in towns, which stand out due to the eye-popping colour and careful framing.
On The Road only lets itself down because its wanderlust cannot transfer the characters’ inner experiences into a compelling drama. Is this an inherent flaw in all adaptations? Considering Walter Salles gave us a classic road movie in The Motorcycle Diaries, it’s very surprising to see him unable to allow the road scenes to be the centre of attention. Instead they fade away and are overtaken by below par interior scenes.
This isn’t the masterpiece some were expecting (the book is revered and a cultural milestone in US literature), but On The Road does well enough. There are wonderful cameos from Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams, as William Burroughs and his doomed wife, which make the film snap into life when a lot of the time a drunken lugubrious tone takes over.
Mark has awarded On The Road three Torches of Truth