On the Road

Director: Walter Salles
Year Released: 2012
Rating: 2.5

Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and wild man Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) drive all over this glorious country, from coast to coast, doing drugs, having fun, acquiring valuable experience and learning about themselves in this noble (if unfortunately unsatisfactory) attempt to adapt Jack Kerouac's classic novel to the screen. On the Road is widely considered to be 'unfilmable' because of Kerouac's technique (which Truman Capote famously dismissed as "typing" instead of "writing") and because the book flows in an almost stream-of-conscious manner - here, Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera basically film pieces of the text and try to join together the scenes as best as possible (filling in the gaps with voice-over): it doesn't 'flow' like the book, but the two main performances (by Riley and especially Hedlund) are excellent, and Salles is able to bring out the highs-and-lows of the Dean character, whose drug intake and promiscuity show the dark side to hedonism and irresponsibility. I'm not sure it captures the pure celebration-of-sheer-movement that Kerouac was able to bring out with his mythical prose, and corny moments abound (particularly with the overly emphatic Ginsberg/Carlo Marx figure), but I personally think they could have done much worse. Certain works of art 'belong' to the respective mediums they were originally designed for, and 'transporting' them to other mediums 'removes' a key part of the artistry: if this inspires people to seek out the Kerouac book and learn from it, all the better.