Roadkill: 'tedious' Keroauc movie squashed by critics
'Electric' Kristen Stewart can't save On The Road from a savaging by film critics
THE film adaption of Jack Kerouac's classic 1957 novel On The Road opens in UK cinemas this Friday. But despite a talented cast and faithful adherence to the book, reviewers are mainly unimpressed. The book has long been labelled "unadaptable" and the film has failed to bury that theory.
On The Road, directed by Walter Salles, follows writers Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) as they road-trip across America with Dean's wife, Marylou (Kristen Stewart). The story is based on Kerouac's own experiences and the trio live through a whirlwind of sex, drinking and drugs.
Along the way they are joined by a host of famous faces including Viggo Mortensen as William Burroughs and Kirsten Dunst as Moriarty's second wife, Camille.
The film has been highly anticipated, not just because of its cult status as the defining work of the Beat Generation, but because it has been so long in the making.
Kerouac himself first floated the idea of an adaptation in 1957 when he wrote to Marlon Brando asking him to play Dean Moriarty – he never received a reply. In the 1970s Francis Ford Coppola bought the films rights but despite a number of famous leading men becoming associated with the project, including Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, it has taken until now for a movie to materialise.
Kristen Stewart was one of the first actors to be cast, back in 2007 before Twilight had given the actress her household name position.
The Observer says that for Stewart and the rest of the crew the film appears to be a "passion project", because everyone involved was such a fan of the novel. Hellund pledged to turn down all other parts during On The Road's development to make sure his part as Moriarty was secure.
All the three of the main cast members were brought together by Salles for a "beatnik bootcamp" – a month-long immersion and bonding session. Stewart told the Observer: "The bootcamp was about so much more than research. We got to know one another so well.
"Garrett, Sam and I needed to feel safe and completely willing to lose control with one another. And it's hard to do that for me, because I'm the opposite of my character. I'm usually pretty self-conscious, but I didn't care at all when I was with these guys."
Despite the actors' dedication, reviewers say the film lacks the novel's "spark".
Kaleem Aftab in The Independent describes Riley's Sal as "too bland to empathise with", but praises the performances from Hedlund and Stewart, whom he calls "electric".
But while Kerouac fans might be pleased that the film "cannot be faulted for its faithfulness to the novel", the adaption fails to grasp the essence of the book. "Salles never overcomes the problem that so influential has the book been that the depictions which once seemed radical are now cliché."
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian says On The Road is "a good-looking but directionless and self-adoring road movie" with a "tiresome glow of self-congratulation". Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph agrees, describing the film as "tedious... despite its pretty cast and sun-ripened colours".
Indiewire says that much of the film's difficulty is that "after a while the film feels like any other road trip" and by the end you will "find yourself wishing for a little less literary fidelity and a little more cinematic storytelling."