The new film that attempts to recreate on screen the iconic book of the beat fifties and arguably the book that gave birth to the sixties, has a tough job, because the book is more of a failed but glorious quest for meaning and personal revelation than a conventional story. . As Truman Capote said of the book, “That’s not writing; that’s typing.” The important things about On The Road http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337692/ are the quest and the beautiful language that makes the reader feel, and also the aspiration to live life free even if one is a bit lost. So if a viewer goes to the movie of On The Road expecting a protagonist with a conventional story arc, then she’s going to be disappointed. But what the movie does well is give the feeling of the book, that these outsiders were trying to achieve something that had meaning for them even if it was merely thumbing their noses at what everyone else wanted out of life. Also be forewarned that the movie takes other sources besides the book for some of the events depicted, so there is a lot more sex and profanity than the original text. The question remains are these additions true to the actual book or the spirit of the book. Let the debate begin. The movie made me feel exhilarated at times, but mostly sad. Dean Moriarty, Dean Moriarty, Neal Cassady.
The art and wonder of the ideals of this group of crazy ones, is what will remain and that is exactly why the book, after 50 years, still outsells new fiction. It strikes a chord that resonates over generations. The movie has a great cast – Viggo Mortensen as William Burroughs, for god’s sake. And you can’t take your eyes off Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty. As much as I can’t stand Kristen Stewart, I have to admit, she can act and has a few more expressions in her quiver than just looking like she smelled something bad. Sam Riley as Kerouac is the perfect writer/observer with a twinkle in his eye and a pencil stub and paper at the ready. Tom Sturridge as Allen Ginsberg lives the exuberant and often wistful part of the poet. Kirsten Dunst and Amy Adams get to play the orbiting roles of the women who are drawn to these unconventional artists. Kirsten as Camile/Carolyn Cassady asks, “Do you know what I’ve given up for you?”
There’s a lot to like in this adaptation and if you’re a fan of Kerouac’s, you should see it. And don’t forget the great soundtrack which in CD form or maybe in even in download form has included Jack Kerouac himself reading some of this beautiful work. Dig it!