On The Road

Year: 2012
Production Co: MK2 Productions
Director: Walter Salles
Producer: Roman Coppola
Writer: Jose Rivera
Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Sturridge, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Alice Braga, Elisabeth Moss

I got the feeling you might have to not only have read but loved the pivotal Jack Kerouac novel on which this film is based to really get it. I know I'm revealing myself as a Philistine by admitting this, but I never really had much of a sense of who everyone was and why they mattered.

It was probably a bit like the effect Harry Potter had on the movies – like kids around the world held their breath waiting to see what kind of life Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson would give to characters that were so beloved and invested in, a generation of fiftysomething wannabe artists were dying to see how such immortal words would be spoken by the likes of Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart.

The friend I watched it with who'd always loved the book actually spoke the last line aloud along with the actor who said it, so I could feel the power of expectation by the (very small, as it turned out) audience and the filmmakers themselves to pay due reverence to Kerouac's text.

Sam Riley is Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise, who befriends a New York parking lot attendant called Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund). For a reason I couldn't quite fathom Paradise comes to idolise Moriarty and consider him a brother, even though he seemed little more than a cheat, a drunk and a loser to me.

He follows him across the country with one of his free-spirited girlfriends, Marylou (Stewart) and they drink, smoke and have parties with other figures based on Kerouac's friends who'd become literary luminaries of the time, including Allen Ginsberg (Tom Sturridge) and William S Burroughs (Viggo Mortensen).

I'm the first to admit I'm not the target market for the film as I've never read the book, but even I could tell it was so slavish to the characters and moods it wasn't just for people who'd read it, it was for people for whom it's something approaching a sacred text.

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