"On the Road": Critics weigh in on film adaptation of Jack Kerouc's novel

Jack Kerouc's 1957 novel gets the big-screen treatment for the first time with Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Tom Sturridge, Danny Morgan, Elisabeth Moss, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen.

The film, which is now in limited release, was directed by Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles, who was also behind "The Motorcycle Diaries." "On the Road" follows the travels of Sal Paradise, an aspiring New York writer, and Dean Moriarty, a charming ex-con, married to the very liberated Marylou.

"On the Road" debuted at France's Cannes Film Festival in May to mixed reviews with a current 47 percent rating on film aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what some of the top critics have to say:

Stephen Holden of The New York Times: "In the cameo roles of the mistreated women in Dean's life, Kristen Stewart smolders with sullen, defiant sensuality as she tries to keep up with the boys, and Kirsten Dunst reacts to Dean's betrayals with outraged indignation. Because these female impediments to Dean's selfish pleasure-seeking are far more real on the screen than in the book, his romantic mystique is fatally tarnished in the movie. It all seems -- dare I say it? -- of little consequence."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it 2 out of 5 stars: "A dash of Tarantino might have juiced up Walter Salles' wrongheadedly well-mannered take on Jack Kerouac's 1957 Beat Generation landmark. Kerouac's semi-autobiographical novel comes to the screen looking good but feeling shallow. Kerouac, here called Sal Paradise and played by Sam Riley, hits the road with his pals to find a non-conformist America spiked by drugs, jazz and poetry. Hey, man."

Linda Holmes of NPR: "What's ultimately wrong with On The Road is that the film envisions everyone Sal meets as nothing but fodder. When you're actually reading what's meant to be his book, as On The Road readers are, that might work. But here, you're really seeing the story of how he wrote his book. It's one too many degrees of remove, which makes his wanderings seem painfully self-indulgent and insignificant."

Jon Froche of The Atlantic: "No such buzz, or such strong reaction, has surrounded Walter Salles's unfairly maligned On the Road, a lovely adaptation of Jack Kerouac's classic beat-generation novel. The book (which I admittedly have not read) has long been deemed unfilmable. But Salles has proven the contrary, bringing evocative images, fresh faces, and some fine emotional shadings to the famous, rambling tale of friendship, love, sex, drugs, jazz, literature, and the American landscape."

Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times: "Salles has lovingly crafted a poetic, sensitive, achingly romantic version of the Kerouac book that captures the evanescence of its characters' existence and the purity of their rebellious hunger for the essence of life."

Kyle Smith of The New York Post gave the film 3 out of 4 stars: "That's best about the film are its quick jumps from one depravity to the next as jazz rambles on the soundtrack: Youth is a candle to be burned at both ends, with (as it was once said about Bob Dylan) a blowtorch in the middle."


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