Jack Kerouac‘s On The Road is a staple of the Beat Generation; those drug addled, jazz fuelled writers and poets that liberalised publishing in America as it was. This sprawling, autobiographical book, manifestly takes in endless locations and characters, many a passing blur, as a chameleonic group of hedonistics do their utmost to tear a hole in their own lives, all in the name of experience. Sadly, whilst anti-hero Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Kerouac’s alter-ego Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) are perennially at the epicentre of this moving feast, a meal on wheels if you will, all others, even big-hitters like Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, the homely Kirsten Dunst and nigh-on-nympho Kristen Stewart, fall to the highwayside.
Compared to other narcissistic films, the drug consumption and recklessness has no charm nor cheer as the characters are so devoid of likeability, especially Moriarty as to be loathsome. Nicolas Cage’s screenwriter in Leaving Las Vegas was a man consumed by his addiction to booze; conceding defeat and drinking himself to death, but there was something tender and loveable about him. Matt Dillon’s road-tripping, in every sense, during Drugstore Cowboy* is charismatic and even Jonny Depp’s mad hallucinogenic journalist in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is funny. Hell, even Mark Renton made you smile at times, didn’t he? Not so Dean Moriarty; his self adoration and the fawning sycophancy of all those he draws into his world becomes tedious. And the last thing you want on the road is tedium. Indeed, some of the best moments of the film come when antenatal Dunst and femme fatale Stewart’s characters rise against him.
The landscape photography in places is beautiful though, I just wish they could’ve framed it with better characters.
5/10 – This film’s a bit like our irregular trips up A470, to my in-laws; longer than you’d want and by the last 30mins, even stunning scenery can’t help.
* Drugstore Cowboy contains a cameo from fellow Beat Generation icon William Burroughs; here it is:
- Film Tuesdays | On the Road (gobblerants.wordpress.com)
- ‘On The Road’ Review: Jack Kerouac’s Classic Gets The Big Screen Treatment (slashfilm.com)
- Original Hipsters: ‘On the Road’ Review (fictionamongst.wordpress.com)