Director: Walter Sallas
Starring: Sam Reily, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams
Written by: Jose Rivera and (book) Jack Kerouac
Running Time: 124 mins
Release date: 12 October 2012
Jack Kerouac’s controversial yet revered 50’s Beat Generation novel, On The Road, has always been a book that I have wanted to read but never got around to. Many of its fans claim that it is almost unfilmable. However, The Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles has spent years researching and studying the story behind the book as well as the story itself to bring it to the screen. I have to say, haven’t not been familiar with the story, I went in with great interest. I now understand why they said it was unfilmable. Maybe Salles shouldn’t have put so much effort into it.
Sal Paradise is a writer longing to get something on paper. He is introduced to Dean Moriarty, a man whose life is miles away from Sal’s. He is a free-spirited soul. He has a teenage wife and a love for drugs, drink, sex and jazz. Soon he takes Sal on a road trip that is to last several years, as Sal becomes more and more fascinated with Dean’s world and the people that frequent it. He also finds himself falling for Dean’s young wife, Marylou.
This is a film filled with contradictions. It is littered with great performances from the energetic cast and yet there seems to be very little character development. The direction is of the standard you would expect from Salles and yet it seems to just amble along aimlessly. In fact, it has class and worthiness written all the way through it and yet it is both tedious and somewhat boring.
The problems must start with the story. There isn’t one, just as series of incidents and meeting of various people, none of which are fully explained or introduced. For example, a character appears in one of the journeys, we have no idea who he is, why he is there and where they are taking him. 15 minutes later he arrives to the destination, is reintroduced to his wife and we never see him again.
The acting, as I said, is uniformally good. Sam Reily as Sal, is very good and Garrett Hedlund as the ubercool Dean also does a good job. The trouble is these are two people you really don’t want to spend two hours with, particularly Dean. Misogynistic, egotist with a serious drugs and drinks problem, he has no respect for anyone, even himself. This was shown in the scene where he has sex with an older man just because…
The women in the film are badly underwritten and only seem to be there as objects of sex and yet Kristen Stewart as Marylou and Kristen Dunst as Dean’s other wife, Camille, both do excellent jobs with their performances, considering there seemed nothing to actually latch onto.
This is an infuriating film because it is obviously made with love for the source material, made by a master film maker and starring a cast of very talented actors and yet it is plodding, dull and in places very boring indeed. Maybe I should read the book now and see what the fuss is all about. A film full of promise but delivering nothing.