"On The Road" Review by London Evening Standard
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones mad to live”, wrote Jack Kerouac in On The Road. Now the book has been adapted for the screen by the Latin-American pair Walter Salles (director) and José Rivera (writer).
Presented at Cannes in competition, it will have its supporters for the Palme d’Or, while others may feel that the mad passion of Kerouac’s characters is precisely what it lacks.
The cast is promising. British actor Sam Riley, so good as Ian Curtis in Control, plays Sal Paradise, said to be more than an approximation of Kerouac. He plays him as a slightly withdrawn young man fascinated by the more adventurous Dean Moriarty (in essence, the Beat poet Neal Cassady, played by Garrett Hedlund) as they embark on their journey towards what they hope will be some sort of freedom. They are accompanied by Marylou (Kristen Stewart) who married Cassady at 15, divorced him, but remained his mistress for years.
The trio, constantly in danger of speeding tickets, sing, do a certain amount of sexual experimentation and drink too much as the countryside rolls by. Sal, getting into bed with Dean and Marylou, can’t quite manage a threesome and asks Dean to leave. It all seems almost conventional these days.
Salles gets excellent performances from his cast, which includes Viggo Mortensen as the William Burroughs figure and Kirsten Dunst as the girl Cassady married after finally breaking up with Marylou. However, he struggles to give his story the strong dramatic line it requires and concentrates instead on sequences which illustrate the book best.
What we do get, thanks to Riley’s perceptive performance, is the sense that he is watching Cassady tasting life before he gingerly partakes. But he does watch with some surprise as the very hetero Cassady allows himself to be seduced by Steve Buscemi’s homosexual for a pocketful of money.
In many ways a pleasing film, the drama seems muted and what made the Beats seem extraordinary figures is only partially suggested. An emblematic book has inspired a road movie that seems a good deal less memorable than Easy Rider.
Credit => London Evening Standard / Via => @KstewAngel