Jack Kerouac's novel, ON THE ROAD, has been popular with young people for over half a century. Its fresh, stream of consciousness style is well suited to the tale of two young rebels, hungry to experience every adventure possible.
Like the book, the movie feels free wheeling and spontaneous. It captures both the energy and the despair of its characters' attempts to live life to the fullest.
It's better than I thought it would be, but it's a little too long and some scenes feel over-the-top.
The film uses some but not a lot of voice over narration that is straight from the novel:
"I first met Dean not long after my father died. It wasn't only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more. But because somehow he reminded me of some long lost brother. In the west he spent a third of his time in the pool hall, a third in jail and a third in the public library. And although he was a con man, he was only conning, because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it, and he knew I knew. This has been the basis of our relationship. I began to learn from him as much as he probably learned from me."
Sam Riley plays Sal Paradise, the young writer who is fascinated by Dean Moriarty, the free spirited con man he travels with. All of the characters are based on real people. Sal is Jack Kerouac himself, and Dean (played by Garret Hedlund) is based on Neal Cassady, the charismatic hedonist who convinced the young Kerouac to travel around the mainland off and on for nearly seven years.
Sam (in voice over): The only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, 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.
Back in the fifties, these characters were part of what was called "the Beat Generation," nonconformists who smoked constantly, drank excessively, consumed lots of amphetamines, and generally broke all the rules.
And Dean is their inspiration. Somehow, Dean got married to a sixteen year old named Marylou well played by Kristen Stewart who for a time mistakenly thinks she can tame her irresponsible partner.
Marylou: I wish dean wasn't so crazy now.
Sal: You'll be wishing that the rest of your life.
Because, in fact, nothing restrains Dean who's openly two-timing his wife with another woman, Camille, played by Kirsten Dunst. Not even fatherhood deters him, because Sal and Dean believe that, as William Blake wrote, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," not understanding that excess can also lead to addiction, unwanted pregnancies, and death.
Plus, adulthood awaits all who survive.
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now. e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org