First Hit: Why... This is what I thought about after seeing this film.
Just because a book or writing may be interesting, doesn’t mean it will string together well as a film.
This film represents a failure to make an interesting piece of writing viable as a film. The film is about how Jack Kerouac wrote the book “On the Road”. Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac (Sam Riley) wants to write but can’t seem to type the words on paper. He can, although, take notes.
He meets Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady (Garrett Hedlund) and his 16 year old wife Marylou/LuAnne Henderson (Kristen Stewart) who spins his world upside down. They do everything he’d like to do. Have sex anywhere and with any one. They drink all night long while consuming all sorts of drugs, and they party like there is no tomorrow – what the reality is, is that tomorrow does come.
The issue is that this film tries to replicate the book, and along the way it does a great job of showing/documenting their current experiences, but does nothing to give the audience a reason as why they approach life like this and why would we would care.
I didn’t care about the characters and I didn’t have any perspective to put context into their actions. Was the film interesting? To some degree yes, but sitting in the theater I kept wondering why Dean made choices he did and why Sal made his choices.
Although I did sense there was a great degree of respect for Kerouac’s book and legacy by the director (Walter Salles) it didn’t end up on the screen.
Riley is good as Sal (Jack Kerouac). He did provide a level of curiosity and desire to experience life more than others. Hedlund was very good and believable as Moriarty who just couldn’t help but respond to his momentary desires and impulses. Stewart was strong as the young Marylou. This role definitely set her apart from other roles she’s taken and may open up her career to more challenging things. There is a fire under the smolder. Amy Adams had a small but impactful role as Jane (Joan Vollmer). Tom Sturridge as Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg) was also very strong and brought intelligence to the role/film. Kirsten Dunst (Camille & Carolyn Cassady) as Dean's wife was good and tried to bring a depth to the film. Jose Rivera wrote this script and unfortunately couldn’t bring a depth to the actions of the characters. Salles directed this film, and although he showed respect to the original material, it missed a depth of character that would have the audience care.
Overall: I’m glad I saw the film but wouldn’t recommend it.