On the Road

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart. Tawdry road trip drama.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Walter Salles and based on the iconic novel by Jack Kerouac, On the Road tells the provocative story of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a free-spirited, fearless, fast talking Westerner and his girl, Marylou (Kristen Stewart).

 Traveling cross-country, Sal and Dean venture out on a personal quest for freedom from the conformity and conservatism engulfing them in search of the unknown, themselves, and the pursuit of “it” -- the pure essence of experience.

 Seeking unchartered terrain and the last American frontier, the duo encounter an eclectic mix of men and women -- Bull (Viggo Mortensen), Camille (Kirsten Dunst), Carlo (Tom Sturridge), Jane (Amy Adams), Terry (Alice Braga), Galatéa (Elisabeth Moss) – each impacting their journey indelibly.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I may be the only writer who has never read Jack Kerouac’s book. But over the years I’ve caught the essence of his work through the bohemian nature of artists who followed in his footsteps, rebelling against conformity for the sake of it. Viewing this film version of the novel, I found it difficult to glean any perception that characterized, then later satirized, the Beat Generation. They drink to excess, live for doing drugs, have intercourse with both sexes, steal to meet their needs, take some more drugs, then repeat. They seem to work just to get by, allowing them as much free time as possible to self-indulge the flesh.

I think what saddened me the most was the amount of hugging that went on. That’s probably the strangest sentence you’ve ever read. But most of the hugging begins with Dean, and it quickly becomes clear that relationships are disposable to him. A hug should mean something of significance, but his emotion is untrue. Dean uses women, hiding his indifference with charm and good looks, two ingredients of a cad’s character which appeal to far too many women. Then later, we see him abandon his so-called best friend while in Mexico, the friend near death and alone. His hugs therefore are shallow, meaningless.

Actor David Niven once said of his bounder friend Errol Flynn, “…you always knew exactly where you stood with him because he always let you down.” That says as much about those who enjoy the company of a charismatic hedonist as it does about the charismatic hedonist, himself. The people in this film are drawn to Dean like moths to a flame, and eventually suffer the same consequences.

We can learn something about ourselves or what to avoid in life by viewing self-centered movie protagonists, but this film not only assaults the senses, it leaves us sad to realize we share common space with people who just take and never really share.

DVD Alternatives: I wanted to recommend Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man as I am a big fan of Papa’s writing and his work had a more positive slant on those lost and seeking their way. Alas, that film version isn’t very good. It was always difficult for filmmakers to bring Hemingway to film. So allow me to suggest a book rather than a film. Ernest Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories. The chapters are like short stories and this book contains the best short story I ever read, The Big Two-Hearted River.

That said, if you’re looking for guidance and meaning from “road trip” parables, try reading the God-breathed works of Paul in the New Testament. Now that was a road trip!

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
IFC Films

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Crude sexual descriptions

Obscene Language: Around 15 obscenities.

Profanity: Eight or so profane uses of God’s name or Christ’s.

Violence: None

Sex: Very graphic sexual situations between men and women and men and men.

Nudity: Lots of nudity, both male and female

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drug use, as well as smoking and drinking throughout.

Other: To make ends meet on their road trip, they steal gas and food on several occasions.

Running Time: 112 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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