Wild Young Minds: On the Road, the movie

Monday, June 4, 2012

On the Road, the movie

Recently, I posted about the book On the Road I had just finished and about the fact that the Beat Generation is very fascinating to me. Now, a few weeks later, I have seen the movie, inspired by the book, which had his world premier at the festival of Cannes and which is now shown in many, many cinemas all over the world.

I can say that I've never looked forward to seeing a film this bad. The book On the Road seemed hard to adapt for the screen but also very promising. Since there's so much you can do with music, with visions of the road, of America, of sunrises and sunfalls. And Walter Salles, the director, did a great job adapting all this. He casted some very good actors and in my opinion, the movie respected the book in a way that the main lines of the book were adapted very good. But of course there were also a few disappointments. One thing that will never change: making a film of a great, great book is hard, and fans of the book will be the most critical viewers ever.

I won't tell you more about the story, since you already know what it's about when you've read my previous post about the book. Well, allright, here's the main line: the young writer Sal Paradise starts a journey (that will never stops because life on the road never does) after the death of his father. He meets the craziest people, spends a lot of time with Dean Moriarty (the most important person of the book), Dean's girlfriend Mary Lou and Carlo Marx.

One thing that was very remarkable about this film, was that it was a lot more promiscious than the book. Of course, the book was revolutionary, mainly for the free life the main charachters were living: sex, drugs, alcohol and gay love. And, considering the fact that the book was published in 1957, all these things were much more taboo then than now. But I think the film will provoke a lot of shocked exclamations from conservative people. A few things shocked me as well, so if you're not into that kind of stuff, don't go.

There were also a few things that didn't match my expectations. For one thing, like my father remarked very well (next to the fact that the book 'Seize the day' by Saul Bellow played a part in the film while it wasn't even published yet in 1957) that the actor that played Dean, Garrett Hedlund was not like Dean in the book at all. And I totally agreed with him. Don't get me wrong, Garrett Hedlund is a great actor, and his looks, well his looks are just amazing. I fell in love with him the minute I saw him. But that's not the point, the point is that he wasn't as active as Dean should've been. He was crazy, yes, he slept with every girl in town, yes, but he wasn't always running around and he wasn't stumbling over his words either. A shame.

But the other actors, Sam Riley (who played Sal Paradise), Kirsten Stewart (who played Mary Lou) and Viggo Mortensen (who played Old Bull Lee) matched my expectations very well. Not only was their acting good, they also adapted a bit of the characters they had to perform. And that's very admirable. Kirsten Dunst played an important role as well, as the second love of Dean, but I shall not say a lot about that. I'm just not that into Kirsten Dunst.

Over all, the movie On the Road isn't much more than a few hours of young people making trips through America (New York, San Fransisco, Texas, Mexico, Denver) while they're smoking, listening to jazz, having sex and thinking about their lives. But hey, that's exactly what the book is about. And hey, the book is brilliant. But I do think you should read the book before you see the movie because you'll probably understand the different parts of their travels better and you'll know more about the Beat Generation that way. And that's just bloody interesting.

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