Movie Review: On The Road #FFShout #IDAHO




Director : Walter Salles

Starring :  Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Tom Sturridge, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Morgan, Elisabeth Moss, Alice Braga, Terrence Howard, Steve Buscemi

Running Time : 124 minutes

Release Date :   Showing at the ShOUT! Film Festival, Friday 17 May….. booking details here

The best teacher is experience

Based on the classic Jack Kerouac novel of the same name, this is the tale of budding writer Sal Paradise (Riley) as he traverses America in search of …… something. Once he meets the dangerously seductive Dean (Hedlund) and his teenage bride Marylou (Stewart), his life is forever transformed. This trio form the core group for an array of travellers who drift in and out of Sal’s life, all leaving an indelible impact on the young man and what would ultimately become his defining work.


Now, I feel it prudent to mention that I have not read Kerouac’s On The Road. Nor am I an expert on Kerouac …. or his works…. or the beat generation. But the reality is this novel IS the work he is noted for. Mention Kerouac and even those of us with only fleeting knowledge of the man immediately think of On The Road.

Why am I rattling on about the book? Well that would be because after I watched the movie last night, I was intrigued enough to do a little research on Kerouac. And what did I find? Many people who have read the book and watched the movie did not feel the movie was a true reflection of the novel and thus, were disappointed in the final result. But I am not coming from that place. I have nothing to compare my movie viewing experience with so for me, it’s all organic.


So back to the movie…. and while I do not condone drug or alcohol use or abuse, I won’t be moralising either.

I found this movie intriguing and intoxicating…. sexy and sensual…. lush and languid….. honest and heartbreaking…..but also a little pretentious at times. There were moments that made me wish I was young and carefree again as these young people drank and took drugs for days on end, sleeping between bouts of philosophical musings and inward thinking, with no thought to the consequences or the future. Their endless quest for meaning and spiritual insight is something familiar to many of us. I’m still a searcher (which may explain my almost constant state of restlessness) but I no longer have the luxury of spending days on end stoned or travelling while I search. Yeah so perhaps I am a little envious of this carefree existence. But that’s what it’s all about right?


The movie’s protagonists take to the road many times and along the way meet a collection of seemingly random but always life changing people. Each person has something unique to offer, something unique they endure. Sal’s close friend Carlo (Sturridge) pines endlessly for Dean. He writes poetry for and muses with great insight on their relationship. Dean indulges sexually but does not love him back. Dean indulges with almost everyone, in one way or another. Emotionally, sexually, philosophically or as a simple business transaction….. all roads lead to Dean.


This movie reminds me of My Own Private Idaho. Not so much the storyline, although the relationship  between Sal and Dean is vaguely reminiscent of that between Scott and Mike in the aforementioned movie. It’s the general feel of the movie. The cinematography….. the use of the American landscape almost as another character. Lots of long sweeping shots of the endless roads, clever use of filters and colours to enhance or detract. Seasons coming and going to mark time and the arrival or departure of co-travellers.


The cast does a superb job of bringing the movie to life. As this is a movie full of cameos, all actors excepting the core trio, had little time to showcase their exceptionally quirky and nuanced characters. From the little known Sturridge to the Oscar nominated Mortensen and Adams, each person is brought to life with skilled subtlety to add depth and meaning to this voyage of self discovery.

But the movie belongs to Riley and Hedlund. Riley’s Sal morphs from budding writer to fully fledged literary genius over the course of the movie’s 2 hours. A participant in his life but always seemingly half a step removed so he can fully observe… all writers’ must do by natural default. Sometimes he interacts, sometimes he simply watches and waits. But he always indulges his passion for words and allows himself to be swept away in them. Again, I am envious of this man and can only dream of penning an On The Road myself *sighs*


And then there is Dean. Hedlund, with his classically cool good looks and oh so sexy deep, gravelly voice brings all the charm to the screen. He seduces almost everyone he comes into contact with…. all in the name of self-gratification. But our dangerously delicious bad boy is on a path of self-destruction. His bravado and all-encompassing sexual prowess hiding a fractured soul that will give all but his heart. From the outset, you know this will all end badly.


Maybe I should read the book sometime…. I can always buy it and let it join all the others on my Shelf of Shame (this is where I keep all the books I am going to read someday. All bookworms have one …… don’t even try to deny it ha ha ha)

This movie will not be to everyone’s liking or taste but it does explore a time in history that I wish I could have been part of. It was a time of great social change….. the calm before the storm so to speak…… changes that are still unfolding today and hopefully will keep unfolding. I loved this movie …… even with its touch of pretension *coughs* It’s a lengthy 2 hours but it’s a journey worth taking.

Love Flick xx

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