TIFF REVIEW: On The Road
FameFlynet, Splash, Jason Merritt/Getty
I can’t wait to hear people’s reactions to this movie. Director Walter Salles was faced with a daunting task, one that many might argue was virtually impossible to successfully accomplish: turn Jack Kerouac’s barely fictionalized autobiography, On The Road, often referred to as one of the most important novels of the century, into a film that wouldn’t crumble under the weight of such tremendously high expectations.
The film was met with mixed reviews at Cannes, but I feel like if you don’t get a thirteen-minute standing ovation and a kiss on the cheek from Eva Longoria you’re considered a failure there. This movie is not a failure; there are too many redeeming qualities for it to be a failure. But it’s not faultless either.
Salles’ biggest achievements in this film are the performances he was able to extract from his skillfully selected cast. This really is a showcase for some of the most talented young actors of our generation: Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund are remarkably good as Sal Paradise and Dean (Kerouac and Neal Cassady in actuality); Hedland’s portrayal of “Dean” is star making and could get him some major recognition come award season.
Tom Sturridge, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen and Elisabeth Moss, to name just a few of the stellar support cast, are all in top form. Sturridge in particular breathes heartbreaking life into Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg).
As for the elephant in the room, Kristen Stewart held her own and played morose better than she’s ever played morose. That being said, the timing of the release of this movie couldn’t be worse. The last thing she needs right now are audiences watching her sexually satisfy two dudes at once in the front seat of a car. That happens. A couple of times. And it’s beautifully shot.
To that point, the film is gorgeous. Every shot is more beautiful than the last, every location more enchanting that the one before. But for all that it’s celebrating - the passion, the rule breaking, the quest for unadulterated freedom, the electricity of the beat generation, I felt like it erred on the side of caution when it should have just jumped in to the deep end headfirst.
The movie is intrinsically sexy but it could have been sexier. Don’t cut away from the threesome - let us soak it up! This is a window into a culture that is so far removed from today that it seems almost like a dream. Which is why its release couldn’t be timelier. If nothing more, it’s a road trip movie that offers a peek into a time before social media, a time where the passion of a young generation didn’t culminate in a “like” icon. So much was accomplished, so much was seen and so much was done. It left me wishing I could have experienced that time. And that feeling alone was worth the price of admission.