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On The Road - Review

On The Road

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

JACK Kerouac’s classic American novel On The Road has often been described as unfilmable. Walter Salles’ big screen adaptation capably demonstrates why.

A rambling, emotionally inert and tediously long experience, the film struggles to find any real momentum throughout its bloated running time.

And that’s despite a notable central performance from Garrett Hedlund and strong – if fleeting – support from the likes of Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams.

The story follows aspiring writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) as his life becomes entwined with bohemian hipster Dean Moriarty (Hedlund) in late ’40s America.

Over the course of the next few years, the duo travel across America by car, picking up women and encountering new friends, along the way.

Where Sal has a goal, however, Dean seems driven by nothing other than to have a good time, regardless of the emotional cost to the people – especially the women – in his life.

Having never read Kerouac’s 1975 landmark novel I can’t really suggest why Salles’ film doesn’t stand up in quite the same way. But in film form it feels very pedestrian, too episodic and it struggles to deliver a set of characters worth investing time in.

The central dynamic between Sal and Dean is never really explained and seems caught between two stalls concerning Sal’s real feelings for his friend.

Perhaps that’s because Riley struggles to provide any real presence, while Hedlund may ooze early charisma but lacks any real depth and – eventually – sympathy.

Kristen Stewart, meanwhile, has little to work with and fails to extend her range.

There are bright performances from the likes of Mortensen, Adams and Kirsten Dunst but they offer only pockets of interest along the way.

Salles, for his part, displays a keen eye for period detail and makes his film look great. But with so little to grab onto emotionally, everyone is fighting a lost cause.
Hence, while On The Road remains one of the enduring novels of modern literature, in film form it’s simply an endurance test.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: October 12, 2012