On the Road (2012)

Out Now On-Demand

Jack Kerouac's generation-defining novel arrives on the big screen, executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. From the director of The Motorcycle Diaries.

Based on Kerouac's semi-autobiographical account of his 1940s road-trip across America, the tale follows young determined writer Sal (Riley) who hits the road with a newlywed couple, the charismatic ex-con Dean (Garrett Hedlund) and his 16-year-old wife Marylou (Stewart).

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

  • Jose Rivera
  • (based on Jack Kerouac's novel of the same name)

Adventure, Drama

137mins

Rating: MA15+ for strong sexual content, drug use and language

USA, UK, France

Official Site

Jack Kerouac’s seminal road trip novel was never going to make for an easy screen adaptation. Written in one breath with the rambling fuel of a methamphetamine buzz, it was arguably a novel with more style than substance, more philosophy than plot and more uppers, so to speak, than downers. As exciting as Sal Paradise and his best friend Dean Moriarty’s experiences were, it was basically a story about two dudes on their OE, in search of sex, drugs and jazz (it was the 1940s after all).

Screenwriter Jose Rivera and director Walter Salles (who knows a thing or two about road movies, having directed The Motorcycle Diaries), needed to tap into the youthful spirit, sexual energy and vulnerability of the book’s characters in order to remain faithful, while accepting the sometimes superficial nature of the characters’ journey.

Miraculously, they manage it. Although it takes a while to warm to the gushing enthusiasm and close fellowship of the lead larrikins, it’s easy to get lost in the carefree quality of the film. It serves as a reminder of how sprawling the original narrative is, and how things inevitably bode well for the young men and not so for the women who were bound by their children and domestic responsibilities.

It’s also largely thanks to a (mostly) excellent cast. Garrett Hedlund effortlessly embodies the unbridled cool of the Moriarty character, a performance that will no doubt see him ascend to leading man status. Sam Riley as Sal Paradise not only looks the part, but exudes a natural combination of zest and nonchalance.

The weird interludes might test your patience – a dalliance with Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen’s deranged characters adds little to the journey – and Kristen Stewart is as sullen and flat to watch as you’d expect. But Salles has done the book justice by creating a film about what it means to be young and hungry for life.

A.V. Club (USA)

press

All that's missing is Kerouac's voice -- the reason the book is worth reading.

New York Times

press

Salles, an intelligent director whose films include 'The Motorcycle Diaries', doesn't invest 'On the Road' with the wildness it needs for its visual style, narrative approach and leads.

Variety (USA)

press

Despite the high level of craft here, it's an inadequate substitute for the thrilling, sustaining intelligence of Kerouac's voice.

Guardian (UK)

press

The characters heroically swig from bottles, smoke joints, have sex and become narcissistic, flatulent and boring in a way that isn't entirely intentional.

Hollywood Reporter

press

While the film's dramatic impact is variable, visually and aurally it is a constant pleasure.

Little White Lies (UK)

press

You can keep the Zeitgeist embalmed in myth and nostalgia for as long as you like, but to truly reinvigorate it you'll need a whole lot more than a whiskey-hued lens and a frontseat full of pretty faces.

SLIGHTLY DISAPPOINTING

The strength of the film is its depiction of seediness. Its weakness is that the characters mumble their lines - presumably to achieve authenticity(?)