Reasons for Watching: I first listened to the audio version of On the Road in 2008. Hearing actor Matt Dillon read this book gave me high expectations for the movie. While a review of Jack Keroauc’s book on Jorie’s Reads didn’t come until the Revisited Challenge in 2013, I formed high expectations of any would be film adaptation. Jerry Cimino: ‘On the Road’ Movie Trailer Promises an Adaptation Worthy of Kerouac gave me some assurance. Fortunately, I finally posted my review of On the Road just weeks before I viewed acclaimed filmmaker Walter Salles’ telling.
Summary of Movie: Director Salles relates Jack Kerouac’s practically autobiographical story set in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac (Sam Riley), a young, impressionable writer acquires a friend and hero when he meets Dean Moriarty/ Neal Cassady (Garrett Hedlund). Dean, a wandering, womanizing guy from Denver. When Dean enters into Sal’s life, he’s with first wife, Marylou/ LuAnne Henderson (Kristen Stewart). Dean inspires Sal to travel across the country – hence the name, On the Road. Throughout the film, Sal and Dean attempt to turn conformity on its head. Theirs is a star-studded journey of gifted actors portraying the Beat Generation literati. Kirsten Dunst plays Dean’s long-suffering second wife, Camile/ Carolyn Cassady. Viewers also see Carlo Marx/ Allen Ginsberg (Tom Sturridge), Old Bull Lee/ William S. Burrough (Viggo Mortensen), and Jane/ Joan Vollmar (Amy Adams).
Book to Movie Adaptation: As always, things happen differently in the movie. Right from the start with this film, though, I noticed changes. Kerouac says in the book that he met Dean not long after Kerouac and his wife ended their marriage. Also, Kerouac’s Sal says that he had been sick. Without spoiling, I won’t delve much further into the differences. If you don’t mind spoilers, please click on ‘On the Road’: Differences Between Jack Kerouac’s Novel and This Year’s Film – OR – On the Road Differences.
Review: I thought Hedlund completely nailed the role of Dean. From there, I must mention that I would’ve cast Dunst or Emilie de Ravin as Marylou instead of usually sullen Stewart. To expand more on moods or tone, I felt Kerouac wrote this while wearing rose-colored glasses. Salles’ film is a work of realism. We see havoc Dean wreaks on those in his life. Riley’s Sal seems a bit less intimate with these tales than he did in the book. Also, the voice wasn’t quite right.