Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart
Synopsis: A bunch of junkies go on a super-long road trip and have lots of sex
I have never read Kerouac’s novel On the Road. However, it is top of my “must read” list. Usually I would not watch a film before reading the book but my brother casually mentioned that in this film Kristen Stewart gives a hand-shandy to two guys at the same time in a car. That was something I just had to see so I ended up watching it on Netflix despite not having read the novel. This movie received its fair share for criticism but, if I’m being honest, I actually quite enjoyed it. Sure, it’s not 12 Years a Slave and it probably doesn’t do the book justice but watched independently, the movie’s not bad.
I must say, I may be a little biased in this because this film focuses on a slice of Americana that I absolutely adore: ROAD TRIP!!! Living in England, you can’t really do a road trip properly on account of the fact that you can drive the length of the country in a single day and there’s a startling lack of diversity when it comes to cities and the environment here. No, a proper road trip can only really be done in the USA and this movie highlights why that is the case; the scenery is breath-taking whether it’s the plains, mountains, desert or city. If you’re the sort of person who gets wanderlust then this is the perfect movie for you. One day I hope to complete a coast-to-coast road trip just like Kerouac but I won’t be so out of my face on drugs that I end up banging Kristen Stewart.
On that point, it pains me to say it but I must, Kristen Stewart is not actually that bad in this movie. She plays some strung out 16 year old junky ho and she’s quite convincing…then again, she does do drugs on her doorstep in front of paparazzi so it probably wasn’t much of a struggle to nail the part. There are two moments in particular where she steals the scene. In the first, she reveals to Sal that she actually wants a stable and consistent life, something I was not expecting. In that scene, the audience sees her fragility and it’s refreshing considering she’s playing a strung out 16 year old junky ho. In the second scene, the gang pick up a hitchhiker in Arizona (I think) and he starts singing this song about killing the thing you love. The camera focuses on Kristen’s face and it’s glowing with the sunset and at that moment you can see the penny drop: she’s tired and wants to give up. It’s a beautiful moment.
Another performance I was impressed by was Garrett Hedlund’s. Let’s get one thing straight: he is one sexy mo-fo….and he gets his gay on with a cute gay nerd which is wonderful. Overall, there’s something very alluring about him and he fit the role of Dean Moriarty surprisingly well. Sam Riley as Sal was not nearly as convincing and his narration pissed me off a times but I could put up with it if it meant seeing Hedlund naked.
If I were to level one major criticism at the movie it would be that it felt like it lacked direction and a clear sense of progression. It ends all rather suddenly after a meandering and drawn out middle. The movie felt a little like marathon, one with no markers so you’re just running around a city until you eventually reach the finish line but it’s a bit of a surprise when you do. Does that make sense? It made sense in my head. Maybe the book’s like that though. I’ll give it a read and find out.
- Good performances from Stewart and Hedlund.
- Some brilliant cameos. “Oh shit it’s Kirsten Dunst!” “Oh shit it’s Amy Adams!” “Oh shit it’s Steve Buscemi…..and he’s getting butt-fucked….eeeeww.”
- Majestic and awe-inspiring scenery.
- Great film for writers.
- Steve Buscemi. Butt-fucked. Gross.
- Meandering and lacking in focus.
While it certainly has its flaws, On the Road was surprisingly satisfying. I wouldn’t suggest watching it if you’re a fan of the book but if you’re indifferent or haven’t read it then it’s definitely worth the watch. My suggestion is this: get baked on a good sativa and then sit back, admire the scenery and just get lost in all the craziness you see before you. Kristen Stewart giving out handjobs? Just roll with it. Crack heads coming home for Christmas? Roll with it. Steve Buscemi getting fucked?….try your hardest to roll with it.