On the Road Blu-ray Review
As long as ON THE ROAD has been a novel, it’s been desired to be captured on celluloid. Early on, Jack Kerouac petitioned Marlon Brando for the role of Dean Moriarty (Kerouac himself would play Sal Paradise). From there, names like Francis Ford Coppola, Joel Schumacher, Gus Van Sant, Ethan Hawke, Brad Pitt, Billy Crudup, and Colin Farrell had been tossed around for various positions.
And now, more than five decades after Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs became the spokesmen of the Beat Generation, it has finally made its way to the screen. For those that never found it mandatory reading or developed an anti-conformity in their youth, the story (if you can call it that) tells of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley, who played Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in Anton Corbijn’s CONTROL) and his many encounters with the “mad ones”—the primary being Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund, TRON: LEGACY), who triggers Sal to take to the highway and live.
And so he does, hitchhiking and motoring his way from New York to Denver to California to Carolina back to New York (home base) back to Denver (Dean’s town) to Mexico (and more in between), all the while narrating in a smoky whisper. In and out of the journey: the seductive Marylou (Kristen Stewart, branching away from her Bella Swan persona by gifting handies in a the front seat of a coasting automobile), Dean’s second wife Camille (Kirsten Dunst), Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge, THE BOAT THAT ROCKED), Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Jane (Amy Adams), Ed and Galatea Dunkel (Danny Morgan, Elisabeth Moss), and many more.
ON THE ROAD is directed by Walter Salles, who, having successfully brought Che Guevara’s road trip memoir The Motorcycle Diaries to the big screen in 2004, was a wise choice for director of the adaptation of what is considered the quintessential road novel. Salles (whose other credits include the Best Foreign Language Film-nominated CENTRAL STATION and 2008’s LINHA DE PASSE) does about the best job one can do with a work that has since its inception been considered “unfilmable.” And despite ON THE ROAD having made it to theaters as a feature-length film, the novel itself is still completely unfilmable. Somewhere between the 120-foot-long scroll and the two-hour movie, the fury and the essence are lost. Most of the major plot points and characters are covered, but there is so much more to it than that.
In the case of the acting, Truman Capote’s famous quote that Kerouac’s work wasn’t writing but typing comes to mind. The leads—notably Riley and Hedlund—do their best to embody their characters, but it’s far too often that they seem to be less acting than reciting words from a page. It seems that, although the cast and crew clearly had a passion to bring the go-to Beat text to cinemas, few will walk away as inspired as they were by the book.
ON THE ROAD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition presentation has an overall strong picture, with accurate colors and details that capture the look and feel of the era.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. ON THE ROAD is given a fantastic audio transfer, with excellent sound found everywhere from the jazz clubs and apartments to the roads and beyond.
Deleted Scenes (7:48): These discarded bits add a bit more to the characters, namely Sal and Dean.