Published Jan 17, 2013Into every generation, the affected children of the middle-class are born, each eschewing perceived notions of the mainstream in favour of other equally rigid, arbitrary, behavioural and ideological preferences.
This rebellious ethos wasn't singular to Jack Kerouac and his fellow anti-conformist, yet inadvertently conformist Beat Generation writers and poets collectively eschewing responsibility. It's something that has existed since the dawn of society, only with slightly different outfits, drugs and redundant catchphrases.
Ultimately, this generational reiteration is what makes Walter Salles' adaptation of the infamous undergraduate text, On the Road, relevant for our time, noting the sheer aggressiveness of this "new" voice back in the late '40s, but maintaining the timeless quality of protracted teen angst.
Surely, some parallels could be drawn between meek follower Sal (Sam Riley) and id-driven sociopath Dean (Garrett Hedlund) to the modern day romanticizing of anti-establishment pleas, much as their endless road trip searching for the self would speak to the self-conscious superficiality of looking externally to form an identity.
Salles neither embellishes nor patronizes the text, rather presenting the material for what it is with a loose but lyrical style that allows Sal, Dean and their "honey cunt," Marylou (Kristen Stewart), to embrace id-impulse and its fleeting excitement without being completely ignorant to its more limiting attributes.
While Sal merely follows the party, observing everything from threesomes to homosexuality to drug-induced hallucinations, Dean and Marylou vacillate between running to and from the society that offers comfort with the tied-strings of worldview amendments.
Some of the sidebar quests don't translate quite as effectively or cohesively on film as on paper, such as Sal's dalliance with cotton-picking, but the sense of a journey exhausting itself permeates and ties together a story that was no doubt challenging to adapt.
Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera were smart to stick to the human aspect of the story, allowing these lost, or at least misguided, souls to adapt and build chemistry, gradually revealing the differences between their performed identity and true feelings. Watching them each gradually realize that a life of unfocused rebellion and selfish behaviour will leave you alone and out on the cold is ultimately where the heart of this film is.
And regardless of the many cameos and topless sex scenes with Kristen Stewart, it's the bit of humanity within this notably affected text that makes On the Road somewhat memorable, albeit less than profound. (Alliance)