“On The Road” puts on screen the magic and movement of Jack Kerouac’s classic book. It chronicles a group of restless young men through the post WW2 period and manages to sweep you along on their travels, creativity and relationships along the way.
What a visual treat! Walter Salles has an eye for road trip movies, as proved by his film “The Motorcycle Diaries” and you get a real feel for being in the car as you are whooshed across America and Mexico.
There are anomalies. A few key scenes show the distinctive scenery of Mont St Hilaire in Quebec, when the subtitle says you are in the USA.
But you’re here for the characters and engrossed enough by them that minor quibbles pass quickly from your thoughts. These will only bother you if you know the actual locations.
It’s odd, at this time of Quebec consciousness, to hear the Jack Kerouac character (Sal Paradise) refer to himself as French Canadian, when the current term is Quebecois. “On The Road” feels modern, despite being set in the late 1940s.
Perhaps that is because our times echo the lost feelings of the main people shown here. These are “mad people who burn” and they live hard. Casual drug use, alcohol binges, all night parties and lots of sex are featured in graphic detail, throughout.
Filmgoers of a sensitive disposition should probably skip this, even though it’s a gorgeous and thought-provoking movie.
In case you know nothing about Kerouac and his friends, here’s the plot. Sal Paradise is a young writer who meets up with Dean Moriarty. They party and travel. Moriarty is one of those young men who would be dragged onto a TV show to talk about his fecklessness with women, if he were alive now.
The cast are all superb. Sam Riley, who was perfect in “Control” is just as magnificent here, as Sal. Garrett Hedlund is amazing as Dean. The big revelation is Kristen Stewart who brings great sensitivity and depth to her take on Dean’s wife, Marylou.
Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams are all believable and beautiful. Tom Sturridge as Carlo Marx and Alice Braga as Terry steal their scenes from the stars around them. And it’s also worth singling out Coati Mundi as Slim Gaillard who makes you forget you are watching a film.
The audience at Stratford Picturehouse all adored it, whether they loved the book or not and we had a long chat about it afterwards. It’s 124 minutes long and only sags in pace a couple of times, but then zips along again.
Do see it. It’s original and compelling, as well as relevant.