This is PBJ, and I have things to say about On The Road!
IMDB User Rating: 6.9/10
RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 40% Positive
PBJ’s Rating: 6/10 ♥’s
Jack Kerouac‘s ‘autobiography’ of the same name comes to life for the sake of avant-gardists, young and old, and throws in some Kristen Stewart for more current popular appeal. Kerouac’s contribution to the ‘Beat Generation‘ marks one of the most radical works in recent literature. Sam Riley captures the essence of Kerouac [through character Sal Paradise] opposite the hopelessly attractive Garrett Helund [as Dean Moriarty] and Kristen Stewart. These young intellectuals and a set of rotating others venture across the country in a rampart of drugs and sex, booze and no rest. Sal being the lead, the focus is on his ordeals from New York to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco and Mexico, and everything in between. He and friends pursue the dicier depths of their minds with chemically and sexually mind-altering experiences, in the hopes that they will come out the other end as great writers. What results is a gauntlet where relationships fly about like lurid balls of fire, and thus Sal’s epic account of pre-hippy radicalness, On The Road.
Ok so maybe having the read the book would’ve given me more authority to comment on the story itself. I am not a book reader in any sense [chide me for it, whatever] but something tells me the film version has left something to be desired. Even I know that successful film adaptations are a tall order in terms of living up to the power of the book. J.D. Salinger arranged for it to be impossible that Catcher in the Rye [another ‘Beat Generation’ classic and a personal favourite of mine] be made into a movie for that very reason. Getting inside the mind of Holden Caulfield to the effect of the novel would be near impossible on film. Maybe with gratuitous use of voice over, but yeesh. Similarly for On The Road, telling the whole truth of Sal Paradise’s Americana ordeals seems to have drifted more to a tragedy about his deadbeat friend Dean Moriarty. This is no less entertaining but also not what I expected.
The overall work is enjoyable, the constant movement helps the film evade boredom. While the film’s narrative is still somewhat thin and disjointed, endearingly played characters lift the film from average. Kristen Stewart impresses with a relatively charged performance that exceeds expectations. She also tends to go topless from time to time.
On The Road is a must-see for Kerouac and Stewart fans alike. Now how many films can make THAT claim?
There is one session left for On The Road in the Auckland chapter of the NZIFF, get tickets here. Readers in the Wellington leg can see it very soon, otherwise wait for a return to theaters in the coming months.
Thanks for reading!
Image courtesy of: nzff.co.nz