On the Road review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Based on the Jack Kerouac novel of the same name On the Road tells the story of Sal Paradise, an aspiring writer who, after the death of his father, decides to throw off the shackles of his home life and venture across the country in search of freedom and inspiration. With enigmatic ex-con Dean Moriarty, and his girlfriend Marylou, by his side Paradise crosses the United States, meeting a wealth of characters along the way, even the briefest of whom changes his life forever.
The film is all sex, jazz, drugs and the beautiful American landscape as the characters zigzag across the country in search of nothing whatsoever, going nowhere at all, and running from nothing but time. On the Road makes a genuine attempt to capture that freedom of spirit that made Kerouac’s novel the bible of the beat generation.
Largely, thanks to The Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles, the movie achieves this; the scenes leaving visual imprints on your mind and thirst fuelling pangs for adventure on your soul.
The highlights of the movie are the simple acts of talent that are the cinematography of Eric Gautier, who also worked with Salles on Diaries, and the sublime acting talents of Garrett Hedlund who plays, not the lead Sal, but the sex-crazed seemingly bipolar Moriarty. Hedlund’s performance swings and slides smoothly from that of a beautiful seducer, the charming boy next door and vile callousness with such ease that just as you find yourself hating him you suddenly find yourself completely unsure why. It is Hedlund’s show stealing performance that truly makes this film the captivating entertainment that it is.
Though fans of the original Kerouac book are likely to howl in anger at any slight diversions from the literary masterpiece, even they will find themselves admitting that On the Road pulls you in, just as Kerouac did, allowing you to live this brief dream of freedom as though you’re in the backseat of Moriarty’s car.