Movie Review: ‘On The Road’


Yesterday afternoon I was invited to an early screening of the film adaptation of the classic Jack Kerouac novel On The Road and, to be honest, it was just what I needed at the time. Over the Summer, I re-read Kerouac’s On the Road (for the umpteenth millionth time) and that, in turn, got me on a roll reading the work of other Beat writers. Having the On the Road story fresh in my mind had me really anxious to see this film. I am very happy to relay that I enjoyed this film version of the story very much. I can’t say it’s a perfect adaptation but it’s an adaptation is is very true to the spirit of the book, one that does a great service to the words of Jack Kerouac.

Without question, Garrett Hedlund is the brightest star of this film. As the anti-hero Dean Moriartiy (the fictional version of Neal Cassady), Hedlund possesses the charm and sex appeal that makes the audience understand why everyone — male and female — falls over themselves to be near him. Sam Riley as Sal Paradise (the fictional version of Jack Kerouac) is perfectly fine but everyone pales in comparison when Hedlund is on the screen. I have to say, Kristen Stewart as Mary Lou did a fine job but she doesn’t really give a wow-worthy performance. I was much more impressed with Kirsten Dunst’s performance as Camille. A novel like On the Road is almost impossible to do justice to in any format and, in all honesty, this movie doesn’t truly do the book total justice. But, the constraints of time are necessary evils and I can honestly say that director Walter Salles does an excellent job bringing the story from the book to life as best he can. There is a wild spirit in the book that can never be translated to film but there were scenes that really came alive for me, scenes that I never really appreciated when I read the book. There are many parts of the book that are left out of the film but, again, Salles does an excellent job with the scenes he chose to feature. I think folks who have never read the book will enjoy the movie but I urge you to PLEASE read the book either before or after you see this movie. Those of you who are familiar with the book will likely enjoy the film as much as I did. It is really cool seeing the action from the book play out on the big screen. I am impressed by this film, I think you will be too.

  • nicole

    to me Garrett Hedlund is a very underrated actor. i freakin love the guy

  • Diana

    Help me out Trent. I’m reading the book, the scroll version, and maybe I’m crazy but the real names are used not these fictional names? Right?

    • @Diana — Yes, the Scroll Version of ‘On the Road’ is the totally uncensored version of the story that features the real names of the real people who lived these adventures. Because of the times, the real names had to be changed and a lot of the sex and drug use had to be toned down or taken out completely. IMHO, the Scroll Version of the book is the only way to read the story.