Notoriously cited as being unfilmable, Walter Salles took on a big task when he opted to convert Kerouac’s masterpiece On The Road to the big screen and whilst the film may not ‘burn burn burn’ quite like the novel did, the film certainly doesn’t disappoint.
In a letter wrote to Marlon Brando, Kerouac begged that the iconic actor take on the role of the hedonistic muse Dean Moriarty and whilst Garrett Hedlund is certainly no Brando he certainly made the role his own. A character fuelled by lust and madness, who Kerouac himself described as ‘one of the mad ones’ Moriarty’s lust for life tinged with occasionally heartbreaking self awareness was always going to be extremely difficult to catch on screen but Hedlund gives the performance of his young career. Stealing every scene he’s in with his unrivalled charisma, the film feels a little lost when Dean is not on screen.
Sam Riley plays alongside Hedlund as the movies protagonist Sal Paradise. Riley, who made a name for himself playing Ian Curtis in Control is once again fantastic in this movie, his narrations carrying the plot through and being perfectly suited to the mood of the film.
This is not to say the supporting cast do not play their part, Kristen Stewart is a revelation as Mary Lou, finding the perfect balance between innocent playfulness and seductive flirting, showing audiences she is much more than just a miserable vampire lover. Her scenes with Sam Riley are some of the movies finest, the two sharing an unbelievable chemistry. Viggo Mortenson also impresses in his turn as Old Bull Lee.
Like Salle’s The Motorcycle Diaries the movie is beautifully shot, some breathtaking landscapes and fantastic pieces of cinematography make this movie a beautiful experience.
How to describe the movies plot? Vague, rambling, pointless? All of these words could be used to describe the narrative structure of this movie yes but anybody who’s read the novel knows that by doing this Salles has perfectly captured the essence of youth and freedom which gave the novel its place in literary history.
The ending of this movie was for me one of, if not the most beautiful scene in the movie with Sal sat at his type writer reminiscing about the time he spent with Dean and how it has affected his life. A poignant end to a very good movie.
Verdict: Whilst Walter Salles movie doesn’t quite capture the novel perfectly, it certainly has proved the doubters wrong. At 2 hours and 25 minutes it is a very long road to be on but at the end it certainly all feels worth it. Some fantastic casting choices make this movie a must see. Rating: ****