"On The Road" Review by Vogue
WILD, reckless abandon and the pursuit of self-seeking pleasure are attractive ideals. But to be recklessly hedonistic - as the Beat writers were - you need to be ruthlessly selfish and have a total disregard for those around you. While reading a book allows for imaginative romanticism and a more detailed portrayal of key characters, watching a film casts a starker more realistic picture - which is perhaps the problem with Walter Salles' film adaptation of On The Road.
Jack Kerouac first wrote his famous novel in 1951 - it redefined literature with its fast-moving realism, representing a generation whose focus was non-conformity, liberalism and spontaneity. No one, prior to Salles, has been brave enough to take on Kerouac's biographical book and no small amount of pressure was placed on the film's cast to make sure that they did it justice. The director made his leads - Sam Riley, Tom Sturridge and Kristen Stewart - listen to audiotapes by Beatnik scholars; attend talks given by family members of the original Beat writer line-up; and watch a documentary featuring Hollywood greats Sean Penn and Johnny Depp (who admitted that he was grateful he was too old to play Kerouac, such was the challenge).
The scenery in the film is breathtaking, the space is suitably fast and energetic, and the bohemian partying is shown at its most enticing. There is no weak link in the cast: Sam Riley as Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac) is brilliantly observational; Tom Sturridge is convincing as Carlo Marx (based on Allen Ginsberg), the intellectual, wordy outsider who never quite manages to fit in; and Garrett Hedlunt is perfect as Dean Moriarity (based on Neal Cassidy), a man who is "mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved and desirous of everything at the same time", as the author wrote in the book. Kristen Stewart is promiscuous and daring, yet naïve, vulnerable and deprived of any real form of love.
And yet, you don't really feel for any of them. This could be because of their amoral sensibilities - which given the time span of the film can only be explored in so much depth - or because Salles opts to never portray the darker side of Kerouac's novel. Instead the heroin, the cheating, the sordid debauchery, and the terrible lows are all just part of the fun. These people are all so beautiful and largely unaffected by their actions that none of it feels authentic. "If you can't be bothered to read the book, this is quicker," Riley told us at the film's premiere last night. On The Road, the film version, is an aesthetically-pleasing snapshot into a story that should be read as well as watched.
Source => Vogue / Via => @KStewAngel