Tom Sturridge

On the Road Movie

Editor’s note: On the Road cruises into limited release this Friday, so put your brains into gear and enjoy this re-run of our Cannes review, originally published on May 23, 2012. Some books demand adaptation, offering immediate and easily translatable promise as film projects, whether that is thanks to the power of the plot, or characters or certain ideas that would lead to a looser adaptation. Jack Kerouac‘s seminal “On The Road” is not one of those books – like the work of James Joyce, the book is explicitly literary, its content inherently bound by its form and its author so fundamentally a writer before a storyteller that many, including myself, believed it to be unadaptable. In that context, the presence of Walter Salles‘ adaptation, imaginatively called On The Road, on the In Competition list here always stood out as an intriguing prospect. How would the director who made that other road movie The Motorcycle Diaries cope with the very specific problem of adapting something that is so explicitly literary? The answer, unfortunately, is not well. For a tale which so obviously values hedonism and free expression, On The Road is ultimately joyless and unengaging, and for a self-discovering road movie to fudge the journey so much and lose almost all lasting meaning is downright criminal.

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Based on Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same name, On The Road begins in 1947 in New York City, where a young writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), finds himself introduced to the larger-than-life Dean Moriarty (played with charm and conviction by Garrett Hedlund.) Thanks to Dean’s slightly “mad” outlook on life, Sal thinks that spending time with him may lead to some good stories — and hopefully fix his current writer’s block. But more than that, Dean reminds Sal of someone. As their relationship grows, Sal gets more and more embroiled in Dean’s life, and instead of simply observing and being around it Sal starts to become an integral part of it. When Dean decides to move back to Denver to win back his young wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart), Sal takes him up on his offer to join him. As a “young writer trying to take off,” Sal literally takes off, hitchhiking his way across the country and meeting even more interesting characters and jotting more and more notes in his tiny notebooks along the way. Once in Denver, Sal finds himself quickly falling into Dean’s life of sex, drugs, and jazz, and the line between reality and fantasy starts to blur.

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Even with a high tolerance level for quirk, twee-ness, and indie fare about young people in love, this trailer is far too much to stomach before lunch. Waiting For Forever stars Rachel Bilson and Tom Sturridge as childhood friends who hasn’t seen each other in years, except Sturridge’s character (who dresses like that guy at every local show you want to punch/ a poor man’s Benny of Benny and Joon) has apparently been stalking her and saying a lot of creepy things about “breathing her in.” It all sounds like Red Dragon more than, well hell, Benny and Joon. Check out the pajama pants wearing creepster for yourself, and enjoy the seizure:

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PirateRadio

Pirate Radio is a perfectly balanced comedy with a brilliant cast. Hard to believe it’s only Richard Curtis’s second film as director.

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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
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