Saturday, January 18, 2014

On the Road

After spanning a sizable portion of South America in The Motorcycle Diaries, director Walter Salles covers a good chunk of its neighboring continent to the north as he follows Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and his idol Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) as they gallivant around the United States, smoking grass, stealing gas, listening to jazz, and generally bumming around before turning south for Mexico in this long awaited screen adaptation of Jack Kerouac's landmark novel. With On the Road, Salles hits many of the same speed bumps he encountered in his Che Guevara coming of age adventure story, mainly using extraordinary photography (and in this case using fleeting cameos of famous faces, some of which are very good including Terence Howard, Kirsten Dunst, and Viggo Mortensen) to mask his inability to get into his character's heads whatsoever. It's never fair to critique a film by its book, but that is pretty unavoidable in this case, and Salles and his putrid actors (Hedlund especially as Dean Moriarty who mimicks Stephen Wright's voice, to severe consternation [you know it can't be a good sign when you find yourself rooting for the corrupt good ole' boy highway patrolman as he harasses the protagonists]) seem to have thrown the source material to wind, at least as far as I can remember, in a presentation that misses the point entirely.