On the Road (2012)

On the Road
Director: Walter Salles
Writer: Jose Rivera
Based on: Jack Kerouac’s novel
Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss, Terrence Howard, Alice Braga, Tom Sturridge, Steve Buscemi

After his father’s death, Sal (Sam Riley) decides to go on a road trip to visit his new friend Dean (Garrett Hedlund) and his girlfriend Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Together they hook up with some old friends in around the USA. Sal is fascinated with Dean’s energy and joie de vivre. For a while, Sal travels alone, then he travels together with Dean and other people, always looking for the next party and the next kick.

After the book, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about watching the film but I thought that with the lengths the book had, the shortenings necessary for a movie script might improve the whole thing. But if anything the movie was even more boring.

Every once in a while I come across a movie that is so boring, I’m kind of paralyzed with it. I sit in the cinema seat, unable to leave, my eyes starting to get crossed and my brain is banging against my skull, trying to claw its way out. It is uncomfortable to say the least and yet, I can’t make myself just get up and leave. On the Road was exactly that movie.

It started with the fact that I couldn’t stand Sam Riley’s Sal. Everything in him got on my nerves, the character itself, but also the way Riley portrayed him, his voice, his omnipresence and the fucking singing all the time. But Sam Riley wasn’t the only one who was miscast. Garrett Hedlund, while really very pretty to look at, just didn’t manage to convey the charisma necessary to make this role work. Instead you just kept wondering while everybody (and especially every woman) would keep on flocking around him.

The script was generally rather poor, but the scene with Steve Buscemi really drove me nuts. It was just completely turned on his head compared to the book and it made no sense whatsoever anymore for the characters. In the book, Dean pretends to want to sleep witht he salesman, then attacks him and makes fun of him, which confuses Sal, as Dean never had a problem with gays before. In the film, Dean actually sleeps with the salesman for money, which disgusts Sal – whether because it was of the gay sex or the prostitution is left unclear, but my gut feeling was leaning towards the homosexuality – and Dean basically begging him for forgiveness. And that behavior doesn’t fit with either of the characters. In fact, after making Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge) a little pathetic in his homosexuality, it just left a sour taste in my mouth.

There were at least a few things that worked for me, most to do with the supporting cast: Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams and Steve Buscemi had wonderful cameos. As had Kirsten Dunst, whose Camille gets to be an actual character – something the book didn’t manage to convey. But while the cameos just kept coming, it was not enough to make the movie actually good. Or even interesting.

Summarising: should have skipped it.

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