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On the Road

January 6, 2014

On the Road (2012)
Director: Walter Salles
Actors: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart

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Synopsis: Young New York writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), recounts his various journeys across the US in the late 1940s with his hedonistic pal, Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund).

Review: It’s that age-old film adaptation problematic – how do you condense the immense literary raw materials of a bona fide classic novel into filmic form? In this case, Jack Kerouac’s romantic and quixotic – but also very dense and descriptive – paean to youthful exploration, On the Road, gets a cinematic makeover, and the job went to what could in filmmaking terms be considered the closest thing to a “safe pair of hands” for this kind of material – The Motorcycle Diaries’ Walter Salles.

Much as in The Motorcycle Diaries, Salles does a proficient, tasteful job – drawing out the landscape and narrative trajectory of the novel coherently enough. It’s always going to be a losing, reductive process to diminish three hundred pages of a literary masterpiece into a two hour feature film, but in its base remit of offering a visual realisation of the story and honouring the key themes of the novel and Beat culture, Salles deserves at least a modicum of credit – as do the well-cast lead actors, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund. (January 2014)

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