There are very few works of 20th-century American literature that can be called indispensable to our understanding of our culture. And one of these few is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. As everyone knows, it’s the thinly-veiled autobiographical account of Kerouac and his friends in their pointless but exuberant adventures across America. For 50 years, it’s been waiting to be made into a movie. Now, at last. So, everyone already knows the story… well, no; chances are, if you’re like me, you read the book and yet remember almost nothing of the story.
A quick synopsis
So Shaken by the death of his father and discouraged by his stalled career, writer Sal Paradise goes on a road trip hoping for inspiration. While traveling, he is befriended by charismatic and fearless Dean Moriarty and Moriarty’s free-spirited and seductive young wife, Marylou. Traveling across the American southwest together, they strive to break from conformity and and search the unknown, and their decisions change the very course of their lives.
This film is probably the best cases that can be made AGAINST faithful adaptations of the source material. I mean, FACTUALLY, everything from the book is there- it is shown happening, even the dates and places are shown, events are shown in order. But there’s a problem with this choice. Its too safe, way too safe. The movie itself: it’s boring. It’s pointless. Just as On the Road is. But there’s no distracting shiny stuff, or enough drug montages to keep us from looking at our watches. It fails as a story, because it picks up from nowhere, follows a bunch of characters we never really get to care about, and ends suddenly after a long, pointless adventure. Nobody changes. Nobody learns anything. Pointlessness, pointlessness, pointlessness.
The performances of this cast vary from less then impressive to down right wasted. Riely plays the straight male character and with all the craziness that goes on around him he seems lost in shuffle even though he appears on screen and voices most of the film. Hedland plays the character who I felt for the most because at the end of the film he has gone to rock bottom and it’s said to see Hedland give such a fantastic performance who he played that final scene. The performance I was most surprised by was given by Stewart because ever since the start of her career I have hated about everything she has done but with her performance in this I found it so different for her I have more confidence in her for the future (Once she escapes Twilight). So much more known actors are given less to do including Adams, Dunst, Mortenson and Moss who came on for a small amount of screen time but were not fleshed out as much.
The audio and video quality is good enough to impress but not blow me away. There are two audio tracks which is a pretty cool function and the film was shot on 35mm so, its hard to mess that one up. As far as special features go there really isn’t much here just a handful of forgettable deleted scenes and a trailer.
Overall, the film is enjoyable but rarely exhilarating.
There isn’t much to love but there is plenty to like, the acting is good and the direction is good but nothing on this feature seems to be great. It feels like such a restrained film but as I remember the novel all I can dream up is madness. I really want to like this film but i never equals the sum of its parts.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Overall: 2.5 out of 5
Review by Bro “B” – Ben
We received a copy of this blu-ray for our review. All opinions are our own
On the Road [Blu-ray] is available on Amazon.com.