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Cannes: "On The Road" Finally Reaches Its Destination

Sara Itkis |
May 23, 2012 | 5:28 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"On The Road" poster (The Hollywood Reporter)
"On The Road" poster (The Hollywood Reporter)
In 1957, American author Jack Kerouac wrote what would become a seminal novel of the 1950s: "On The Road." Now, 55 years later, the story is finally coming to the silver screen, under the direction and writing of Walter Salles and Jose Rivera, respectively.

The pair also worked together on "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004), another film adapted from a novel, which told of a young Che Guevara's experiences on a motorcycle road trip.

"On The Road," starring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart, opened in Cannes May 23 to a mixed reception. The film tells the story of Sal (Riley) and Dean (Hedlund), who travel across the country several times, with various companions and lovers. Their trip is an expression of the characters' search for the final frontier; for the American Dream; for a promise; for something bigger. As they travel, they indulge in a hedonistic lifestyle of cigarettes, pot, booze and sex. 

Though it has taken nearly six decades to produce a film adaptation of the novel, it has not been for lack of trying. Since its original publication, various actors, filmmakers and writers have set their sights on the generation-defining story. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kerouac himself wished to co-star in the adaptation of his novel, alongside Marlon Brando.

"On The Road" producer Roman Coppola tells of how his father, Francis Ford Coppola, bought the screen rights in 1979, with the intention to adapt it into a film, but that ultimately fell through as well. Salles finally took on the project, which took him eight years to complete.

Now that the film has finally opened to so much excitement and anticipation, the response is surprisingly mixed.

As the story goes, Jack Kerouac wrote--or, more accurately, spilled out--the book in three weeks on a scroll that extended 120 feet. It is a stream of consciousness narrative marked by quirky, jazzy, and flowing prose. That kind of style is quite difficult to convey on camera--possibly the reason that it has taken so long to adapt.

The Hollywood Reporter claims that Salles did an adequate job translating Kerouac’s style into visual and aural aspects. As far as those aspects are concerned, the film is more than a pleasure to watch. However, as Indiewire reports, the narrative itself is flat.

Salles approached the novel with his trademark realism, thoroughly researching the story, shooting on location and having his actors spend time with the descendants of the real-life inspirations for the characters. However, this straightforward approach seems to be no match for the novel’s colorful eccentric ramblings. Still, others claim that the film is more relevant now than ever, with today’s younger generation struggling through an economic depression, and social change on a global scale.

“On The Road” has no official release date, as of yet, although it will most likely open later this year. Its ultimate success remains to be seen.

Reach reporter Sara Itkis here.



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