On the Road (15)

Film

On the Road.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Mon Oct 8 2012

American writer Jack Kerouac’s 1957 book ‘On the Road’, his autobiographical odyssey of cross-country misbehaviour, is such a cultural milestone that it’s long been eyed-up by filmmakers. But the novel’s sketchy story (they drive, take drugs, fool around, drive some more) has always been a stumbling block. And nothing dates so fast as yesterday’s youthquake, so maybe the 55-year wait isn’t such a mystery.

Neither is it surprising that the Brazilian director Walter Salles is finally the one to crack it: he has form, shaping Che Guevara’s youthful writings into ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ (2004). Salles performs a similar trick here by pouring hot young actors into beautifully realised period reconstructions.

What Salles doesn’t do is conjure up a new story. So ‘On the Road’ is still an episodic catalogue of comings and goings. We follow budding writer Sal (Kerouac’s alter ego, played by Sam Riley) in the company of his livewire buddy Dean (Garrett Hedlund, channelling Neal Cassady). The former plays frustrated observer while the latter dallies with women (including Kirsten Dunst and Kristen Stewart). Writerly cameos are also part of the fun – Viggo Mortensen is deliciously cranky as ‘Bill Lee’, doubling for William Burroughs. But the heart of the matter is what’s going on between Sal and seductive yet irresponsible Dean. Does the wordsmith want to shag him? Or be him?

Salles refuses to turn the men’s conflicted relationship into melodrama. Or to shock us. So some viewers might be left desiring a tad more heat and fire. Instead, Salles trusts our instincts to pick up on looks and glances, and the performances deliver on this front. Riley subtly calibrates Sal’s unquiet yearning, and Hedlund is all smiley brio as reckless party monster Dean.

Freewheeling spontaneity is tough to convey on screen, and the drink- and drug-fuelled carousing lacks Danny Boyle-style zing. But the bull-nosed cars, jazz soundtrack and soft light of a bygone era are a joy. If you’ve got a feel for vintage Americana, or the bebop pulse of Kerouac’s prose, you’ll absolutely get this.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Oct 12, 2012

Duration:

124 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Walter Salles

Screenwriter:

José Rivera

Cast:

Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|11
1 person listening
Mr. Jimmy

I'm giving this film one star because some things about it were ok. The movie looks superb, and the period is invoked well too with the old cars and most of the costumes. Even the acting is ok. But what in my opinion horribly fails is the script and the directing. These two guys have managed to turn not only Jack Kerouac's amazing literary work, but also the entire 'beat' ethos into nothing more than a banal, sex-driven, drug-addled bore, where the lines supposedly portraying the ebullience and abundance of lust for life come out as teenage stoned musings no more relevant than what any drunk kid might utter on a saturday night to his girlfriend or his buddy. If the mood of Kerouac's novel and the Beat ethos more generally were nothing but an empty hedonistic attempt to escape reality then they would not have had the lasting and significant influence upon culture they have had. Anyone can become a poet in a momentary flash of drug or alcohol fuelled rapture. But it is a rare thing that the lived philosophy of a few people become a cultural landmark of ongoing importance, articulated with such brilliance in their own words, in their own style. This movie is so far from that spirit that it probably shouldn't have been called "On the Road".

Ged

No doubt this is the most excruciatingly tedious and pretentious. None of the characters were remotely sympathetic and the frequent drug-taking and toe-curling sex scenes were simply passe. If I could give this train wreck of a movie zero stars I would. Avoid!

bobl

Many reviewers will be too young to know the atmosphere of the time the book was written. If you were around in the 1950's it is easy to identify with the movie and the way the story is related,. The Charlie Haden bass played over the credits was worth waiting for but most of the audience will miss this glorious music as they walk away.

terry

Shawn, don't get mad because you were criticised, with a good reason. You know nothing about the Beats, you're obsessed about a censored book based on fictional characters, It's really amusing how you rely in your own fantasies when the movie focuses in the real characters because they actually existed, for your disgust. Deal with it. On the road the film is really great and there is nothing you can do about it.

terry

Shawn, don't get mad because you were criticised, with a good reason. You know nothing about the Beats, you're obsessed about a censored book based on fictional characters, It's really amusing how you rely in your own fantasies when the movie focuses in the real characters because they actually existed, for your disgust. Deal with it. On the road the film is really great and there is nothing you can do about it.

kevin

To the ignorants, like Saown above, whining here, you have to know that Garrett Hedlund is playing Neal Cassady, the real person, not the stereotyped madman of the book Keroyac wrote, The film is about the real guys, not the adolescent onanistic dream figures you guys want. So get your things right before talking bs.

kevin

To the ignorants, like Saown above, whining here, you have to know that Garrett Hedlund is playing Neal Cassady, the real person, not the stereotyped madman of the book Keroyac wrote, The film is about the real guys, not the adolescent onanistic dream figures you guys want. So get your things right before talking bs.

James

Like the book a great ride. Not perfect but beautifully shot with fantastic music. I liked it a lot

falkers

Could not wait to walk out. Smug, self-congratulatory, awful. Cringeworthy.

Bacchus

Wow, why so many rants?!! Also, if you have the chance to read Salles's interviews, in which he describes all the movie's step-to-step proccess, you will then see Kerouac's piece was re-alchemized by a real artist & the greatest of teams; instead of yet another copycat version, On the Road was subtly distilled into an enthralling lyrical re-lecturing going against all conventionalisms & clichés... and the whole team spent 8 years completely immersed in kerouac's world, and they literally sank their teeth & fury into the Beat meat so as to distill the best vision from it, instead of coming out with another blabblering carbon copy, as i said above. As for the actors, I really didn't give much attention & or credibility to them until I read their interviews, and they blew me away, which has made me so proud of this film: almost all of them living together for 6 months, then listening to jazz before doing the scenes, going out to explore the streets, bars, poets, all that, then driving across America aboard an old Hudson, for real! Before shooting any bad intentioned critics, I seriously advise you all to get into the movie's backstage & proccess so you can understand why it ended up coming out like that; you will see it is totally unsettling, unpredictable & COOL, like a jazz improvisation; or better, go make the film yourself & tell us if it's possible to transform all of its contents into a 2 hour film!!!! impossible! Ah, I remember On the Road (the book), before becoming both a smashing success & the storm of its generation, being treated as one of the most disgusting bad-written scrolls of all time!!!