On The Road
Director: Walter Salles
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart
Genre: Not beaten
Up until watching On The Road I was sure that I had read Jack Kerouac’s ground-breaking novel about sex, drugs, booze, music and travel while doing likewise, backpacking in my 20s. Now I’m not so sure. On The Road may be a backpacker standard, but it either left no impression on me or I indulged too much to remember.
Or perhaps it’s because not a lot actually happens on the Road, even the same stretch of highway and rusted old bridge is traversed about a dozen times. While that was undoubtedly good for the budget (especially after hiring all the classic cars and paying Kristen Stewart) it was not so good for conveying an impression of boundless self-discovery during the late 1940s and early 1950s when America was realising its potential.
It’s in the cities, especially in New York, Denver and San Francisco, where life goes a bit crazy for Sal (Riley), Moriarty (Hedlund), Mary-Lou (Stewart) and their companions. Times were crazy and life was enjoyed to the maximum.
On the Road isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. Hang on. That’s also the theme of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance! That’s what I was reading in my 20s! Shame. On The Road, even with its uneven acting performances, repeated backgrounds and undulating plot, is much more interesting.
Also interesting is that On The Road enticed a younger and funkier Sydney Film Festival audience than the usual blue-rinse set. The irony is that it is those pensioners who didn’t attend who are much more likely to have lived the times portrayed in the film. Clearly, On the Road is as relevant and revelatory today as it was when it was written.
Rating: Three and-a-half hangovers