Kerouac's road trip too far
Holy Motors explodes, squirts and gushes on to the screen
On The Road: You're better off staying at home.
‘On The Road’ perfectly recreates the frustration of being trapped in a car with stoners, while ‘Holy Motors’ does to film what Jackson Pollock did to canvas.
ON THE ROAD **
Directed by Walter Salles
Starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams 180 min, playing in competition
It’s Tuesday morning and, with the screech of blood, an adrenaline sun pulls the crooked crowd, swirling, swirling with junk anticipation, towards the solid gawping screen. On, on, on.
Oh, you know how this stuff goes. Walter Salles’s adaptation of On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s puzzlingly durable wad of hip gibberish, has been fluttering around the schedules for years. Indeed, many people felt sure it would debut at Cannes last year. Well, the finished product certainly looks as if it has been honed to some class of perfection.
On the Road brilliantly recreates the boredom and frustration that might result from being trapped in a car with three stoned pre-beatniks for two and a half hours. Indeed, Salles’s film acts as an accidental advertisement for the straight life. After the first half hour of shagging, smoking and jiving, many hitherto cool viewers will find themselves longing to buy a caravan and move to the suburbs.
Okay. That’s a little unfair. This is a beautifully made and very well acted film. Sam Riley plays Sal Paradise, alter ego of the author, who makes friends with a bisexual drifter named Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and joins him on the open road. If you’ve read the rambling tome – famously written on a continuous strip of paper – you’ll know that no further synopsis is possible or desirable. They booze. They read Proust. They drive.
As we might expect from the director of The Motorcycle Diaries, the film has impeccable surface gloss. Gustavo Santaolalla’s music offers superb pastiches of late Charlie Parker and early John Coltrane. Éric Gautier’s cinematography casts stained-glass prettiness over every image. Maybe it’s all a little too good looking – at times, more Norman Rockwell than Edward Hopper – but you can’t fault the professionalism on display. The actors also do well. Hedlund and Riley have charm. Viggo Mortensen is brilliant as a version of William S Burroughs. We know Kristen Stewart can sulk.
But no amount of burnishing can disguise the fact that On the Road has never possessed a story. Moreover, the characters’ self absorption – and that of their real-life models – no longer seems as charming as it once did. Salles and Jose Rivera, his screenwriter, are to be commended for acknowledging how badly the supposed rebels treated women: wives, girlfriends, mothers. But the downside to this honesty is that Sal and Dean now seem almost impossible to endure. Sorry, man. But this flick is a drag.