Boys will be boys. Especially, the ones that have tons of sex and never shower. Yeah, those ones, too.
In 1947, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) is a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a free-spirited, fearless, fast-talking Westerner and his girl, Marylou (Kristen Stewart). They travel the world and meet-and-greet with numerous people, while also, exchanging in bodily-fluids along the way.
Having already gone through 4 years of high school and even dating a girl for over a year who actually read and loved it, I’m still surprised that I haven’t read Jack Kerouac’s landmark novel that defined a generation. From what I hear and see of other people who have actually read the book, it’s a life-changer and will definitely have you looking at everything around, in a slightly-different, if not more, rambunctiousness way. I don’t know if that makes me unqualified to watch a movie such as this, but after seeing it, I’ve come to realize that maybe it would have just been better to leave the book where it was in the first-place: on the top-shelf of some low-rent, book-store, for some young bohemian to pick-up and obsess over next.
Director Walter Salles definitely knows the type of material he’s adapting here, and by doing-so, has made this one, gorgeous treat from start-to-finish. Since the flick takes place over a couple of years, in many, many different parts of world, you definitely get a full feel of what the outside world looks, especially through the eyes of such youngsters as these. Salles knows how to make any scene beautiful and seem as if he read the book, had an idea for how he wanted it to look, and just went for it all, and in that aspect, he succeeds. If anything, this movie is a treat for the eyes, and sometimes, the ears because of the classic, jazz-tracks scattered throughout.
However, that’s where the problem of this flick lies. It definitely has the same sounds, the rhythms, and the look of a movie that would be adapting it’s source material from Kerouac, but in the end, just doesn’t have the feeling. Maybe I’m a bit biased to be talking about the feeling of the novel vs. the feeling of the movie, since I have not read the novel, but knowing what it does to people, their minds, and how much of a game-changer it was, I think I have the right idea in my head to fully understand that this is not the flick that will be changing anybody’s minds, lives, or central-thoughts for the longest time. Hell, even after 2 weeks or so, you might just forget about it.
Actually, that’s a bit too harsh for this flick because although it does definitely have it’s bad, it definitely does still have it’s good, even if the bad does out-weigh the good. For instance, Salles’ direction takes a great-aim at the beautiful landscapes that surrounded these characters and the journey they went on, but when it comes to making a point about the world we used to live-in, and the way these characters get through: well, it drops the ball. You see, the movie starts-off very quick and fast-paced, then dials-down, then goes back-up, then dials-down, and so on, and so forth, until you feel like Salles is just toying around with your interest-meter and whenever he feels like he’s losing you, he’ll just throw a sex scene in there or two. Yes, back in those days, young and free people had loads and loads of sex, but this flick almost makes it seem like a safe haven for when people were just bored, and by “people”, I mean the characters in the movie, and the audience that sits-back and actually watches this.
In a way, you almost feel like Salles is just sort of going through the motions as a director, because even though he knows how to make a film pretty damn purrty, he doesn’t know where to start and end his story, on as high of a note as Kerouac apparently did. It’s not really boring, per se, as if it’s almost just a dull piece of filmmaking that never really lifts off the ground, unless it’s characters actually are, and even at that point, it still seems like a bit of a cop-out. Regardless of if you’re a fan of the material or not, you’re going to be a tad disappointed with the small-amount of emotions this movie makes you feel, if any at all. Once again, did not read the novel, but that’s what I heard it did to those who read it.
The only, real interesting-aspect of this flick was the actual cast-members themselves. Sam Riley impressed the hell out of me as Ian Curtis in Control, but seems oddly-dry, almost to the point of where he’s just a bummer of a dude to watch. He’s boring, talks in a very New York-like accent with a couple uses of lingo here and there, and just doesn’t really have much to bring to the story, other than the fact that he’s there to take notes and eventually make the book of the story we are all seeing right in-front-of-our-own-eyes. I was really disappointed by this dude, but I was very, very surprised by Garret Hedlund as Dean Moriarty.
Hedlund, in everything that I’ve seen him in, has not really been the actor you can rely on to save your movie from total damnation as he’s sort of come-off as very bland throughout the years, but here, he totally makes you re-think that with a performance that’s fearless, fun, wild, sexy, but also, very humane in it’s portrayal of a dude that just can’t slow down the brakes and sort of has that back-fire on him. Moriarty isn’t a type of character you can really feel sympathy for because all he does is cheat on his wife (that’s bearing his two children), have random bits of sex with people’s he’s just met, get high all of the time, and not really do much else nice for the others around him. He’s not necessarily a dick, as much as he’s just a dude that seems like he’s living a bit too much in the crazy world, rather than the real world. Yeah, I know, the real world sounds boring but after awhile, this guy begins to realize that maybe he should have just chilled-out every once and awhile and if not that, then at least made sure you don’t have any responsibilities waiting for you, around the corner. Hedlund really brings the energy and fun to this movie and I just continued to keep on waiting for this guy’s presence to show, back-up on-screen for me to see.
Kristen Stewart plays his gal-pal, Marylou, and what seems to be another piece of stunt-casting, actually turns-out well for the movie, her character, and Stewart as well. Stewart is good here as Marylou because she gets to do more than just mope around and touch her hair, she actually has a wild and free soul to her that makes you feel as if she’s just like Moriarty, except a bit more innocent. Amd yes, for all of you guys that have been wanting to first their eyes on her whole-self since the days of Panic Room, she does indulge in some sweet, and spice sex-scenes where she does get naked and do a bunch of other, wild things, but it’s all right with the context of her character and her performance, as well. Hopefully, K-Stew can keep this going but who the hell knows where her career might go, post-Twilight.
Consensus: The trio of leads save On the Road from just being another shallow and dull attempt at trying to adapt one of the greatest novels of all-time that made people think and see the world differently, whereas here, with this movie, you’re only going to see K-Stew differently when she has her clothes on in movies now. Hey, that’s all I could really garner up from this one.