Movie Review: On the Road Is a Rambling, Beautiful Museum Piece

Walter Salles and Jose Rivera’s adaptation of On the Road begins with the sound of one quick breath, and it’s hard not to read the movie that follows as occurring within the space of the next one. Fast, almost too fast, their film of Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel is a dizzying cinematic corollary to the writer’s rhythmic, free-flowing prose. On the Road has its problems, but at times it’s hard not to feel like you’re witnessing a glorious magic trick: a movie that does some basic level of justice to one of the most unfilmable of American literary masterworks.

Kerouac’s book was as much a veiled autobiography as a dazzling, stream-of-consciousness tightrope-walk, and in Salles and Rivera’s telling, the actors here are playing the real-life figures as much as they’re playing the fictional alter egos. As Sal Paradise (the Kerouac stand-in), Sam Riley, who made such a tormented and almost creepy Ian Curtis in the Joy Division biopic Control, is both turned-in and wide-eyed, an introvert who wants to light out for the territory. He’s the child of immigrants, but he’s caught the American bug of craving the openness and possibility of the road. As Dean Moriarty (the Neal Cassady stand-in), Garrett Hedlund is the opposite: He’s a physically confident all-American type, with a sexual appetite that’s positively Neo-classical. But you sense that part of it’s an act, and it is: He confides to Sal that he sometimes sits in his car with a gun pointed at his temple. Read More...


Want to comment on this? First, you must log in to your SideReel account!