What It's About
A new take on the groundbreaking 1957 Jack Kerouac novel "On the Road" and a look at the Beat Generation. Although the movie wants us to buy into the inflated self-importance of these early hipsters, in actuality it is not a flattering portrait, and the movie disappoints.
The cast is packed with solid actors but most of the "names" are in brief cameo roles.
The film's focus is the friendship between Jack Kerouac and his buddy Neal Cassady, who is one big flake and pain, and Sam Riley ("Control") shows much promise as Sal Paradise (Kerouac), but Garrett Hedlund ("Tron: Legacy") doesn't even try to make his philandering, self-aggrandizing Dean Moriarty (Cassady) sympathetic.
Stewart goes all out to make sure she's nothing like Bella in the "Twilight" series.
Director Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries"), who hails from Brazil, has an outsider's view of America, and that fresh viewpoint tends to make our landscape all the more majestic. The cinematography by Eric Gautier ("Into the Wild") is the real star here.
What Doesn't Work
The road trip is watchable when we're seeing the country, not when they're stopping for drugs, sex and jazz. The cool vibe of the Bohemian characters fails to grab us when the story meanders, verging on tedium.
The film becomes claustrophobic and loses its way, basically because the novel, while culturally significant, doesn't make a good transition from page to screen. It has a few moments that spark, and one keeps waiting for it to take off, but ultimately the free-wheeling nonconformists are mostly frustrating and dull.
For years, everyone has said the landmark book, written first in 1947 as a 120-foot scroll, was unfilmable. Turns out to be true.
Director: Walter Salles
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Tom Sturridge
Rated: R for strong sexual content, drug use and language