On the Road

“There are as many visions of ON THE ROAD, novelist Jack Kerouac’s vivid anthem to the romance of youthful freedom and the getting of experience, as there are readers. It’s a book so influential yet so personal that each succeeding generation since its 1957 publication has picked it up and simply said, as one of its protagonists does, “Oh yes, oh yes, that’s the way it goes.” Director Walter Salles has been one of those enthusiasts since he was an 18-year-old growing up in Brazil under a stifling military dictatorship. Best known for transferring Che Guevara’s THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES to film, Salles has lovingly crafted a poetic, sensitive, achingly romantic version of the Kerouac book that captures the evanescence of its characters’ existence and the purity of their rebellious hunger for the essence of life. Its re-creation of the adventures of Kerouac alter ego Sal Paradise, his best friend and inspiration Dean Moriarty (based on the legendary Neal Cassady, who went on to drive the Magic Bus for Ken Kesey) and Moriarty’s wife Marylou, uses youthful stars like Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart to show how eternal that yearning remains. The lure of Kerouac’s legacy as Beat Generation avatar is so strong that any number of other prominent actors, including Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Terrence Howard, Steve Buscemi and Viggo Mortensen, signed on for what are essentially supporting roles in part because the book means so much to them. A major player in the success of ON THE ROAD is the lyric cinematography, rich in views of the casual beauty of wide-open landscapes. The year is 1947…The physical manifestation of the life force, Moriarty proved irresistible to the would-be creative types he meets in New York. These include Sal Paradise (Riley, the star of CONTROL), a self-described “young writer trying to take off,” and Carlo Marx, an aspiring poet and fellow baby hipster based on Alan Ginsberg. “The only people for me are the mad ones,” Paradise says in one of the book’s (and the film’s) most celebrated passages. “The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like Roman candles across the night”—Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times. R. 125 Min.

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