Long live bromance

Credit: MK2 Productions

Adapting books can be hell. On the Road is a classic example. After a lot of starting and stopping over the years, the film finally made its debut at the 65th Cannes Film Festival- With an impressive 15 minutes of applause, no less.

For those of you who are going to give this review a quick once over, the movie is incredibly well executed, and true fans of Jack Kerouac’s Beat generation classic will be impressed by the film’s loyalty to the novel. By loyal, I mean going off script. Because the book is an endless stream of consciousness, the only way the actors would’ve stayed true to its spirit would have been to improvise. And it’s just as crazy, if not crazier.

On the Road is a semi-autobiographical telling of Kerouac’s frequent road trips under the alias of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and his friend, Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and their insatiable thirst to experience, learn and more importantly, live. …Obviously the subtext is sex, drugs and uh, jazz.

Director, Walter Salles was determined to tell the stories of the real people Kerouac knew, and not just the characters on the page. I think this gave the story much more depth. Although it was really irritating at the Cannes press conference that the host had to introduce the actors, their characters and the people behind the characters. Can you imagine how annoying that must have been for the reporters? Especially considering how huge the cast is.

By researching the real people involved in the story, the women inevitably became human beings rather than just the toys Kerouac mentioned in passing. There are two scenes in particular that were not in the book. Kirsten Dunst (like I mentioned before, a Cannes Film Festival favorite) blew me away as Dean’s wife, Camille. With one baby and another on the way, she dumps him after his late night antics at a club. The camera then stays with her as she copes and gets ready for work (Salles mentioned that Dunst rarely needed more than one take).

Dean’s 16 year-old ex-wife and mistress, Marylou (Kristen Stewart) is also fleshed out. There is one long shot of her listening to a sad song about love and the look on her face is worth a thousand words. Or maybe I just like looking at it. Whatever. Salles said while the book is about burning as many trails as possible, the film shows the consequences as well.

I remember this movie first making headlines as one where “Kristen Stewart does topless threesomes”, and you know, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But I’d wager this would just be shocking for Twilight fans. There is a lot of sex in this movie, just as much as there is drinking and drug abuse. Keep in mind this is before Woodstock, so the characters are a bit ahead of their time. I won’t give away too much, but I’ll just say that the sex scenes are more sensual than crass.

I wouldn’t say this is my favorite book (the evangelical way the actors talked about it is how I feel about The Great Gatsby) but I really liked the movie and would actually watch it again. While I think this will have good reviews among art critics, it will be more difficult to market in the US due to its 2-hour running time.

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