It’s taken me a while to get around to it, but I wanted to offer a nod of approval for Walter Salles’ “On the Road,” which came out in limited release at the end of 2012.
Dismissed by some critics for being too vague in its storytelling, Salles’ film captures exactly the crazy exuberance for living that Jack Kerouac craved and sought as he crisscrossed the country gathering material for and writing his breakthrough novel in the late 1940s (before it was published in 1957).
Actor Sam Riley, playing the Kerouac stand-in character, Sal Paradise, utters Kerouac’s immortal line at one point: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
Salles, who attempted something similar with “The Motorcycle Diaries,” isn’t aiming for a hipper-than-thou homage to Kerouac. There’s no name-dropping, no nudge-nudge to the audience (“See – he’s supposed to be a stand-in for Allen Ginsberg – and there’s William S. Burroughs!”).
Instead, he focuses on the tone of what Kerouac was really writing about: the urge for experience that drove the young writer to surrender himself to the highway at the drop of a hat.
This review continues on my website.