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'On the Road' Movie Reviews: Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart Praised

Kristen Stewart naked back Garrett HedlundCannes Film Festival movie review: In Variety, Justin Chang says the following about Walter Salles' On the Road, a film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel starring Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady), Sam Riley (Sal Paradise / Jack Kerouac's alter ego), and Kristen Stewart (photo, as Marylou / LouAnne Henderson):

“Evocatively lensed, skillfully made and duly attentive to the mercurial qualities of its daunting source material, Walter Salles' picture pulses with youthful energy but feels overly calculated in its bid for spontaneity, attesting to the difficulty and perhaps futility of trying to reproduce Kerouac's literary lightning onscreen.

“… The blur of events and surface impressions onscreen … feels overlong at 139 minutes, yet nowhere near long enough, and even Riley's appealing, bright-eyed turn can't keep Sal from seeming a passive, psychologically weak protagonist.

“The other actors hit their notes effectively, particularly [Viggo] Mortensen and [Tom] Sturridge as the respective alter egos of William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg; and Stewart and [Kirsten] Dunst, whose warm, emotionally accessible turns lend Marylou and Camille more flesh and character than they had on the page. But the meatiest thesping opportunities naturally go to Hedlund, who brings a winning, boyish quality to the id-on-legs that is Dean Moriarty.”

Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries collaborator José Rivera wrote the screenplay adaptation. Brokeback Mountain's Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla composed the film's core, while You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet's Eric Gautier is the On the Road cinematographer. The editing was done by Look at Me's François Gédigier. The Godfather's Francis Ford Coppola is one of the movie's executive producers. In addition to Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, and Tom Sturridge, the On the Road cast includes Alice Braga, Elisabeth Moss, Danny Morgan, and Steve Buscemi.

IFC Films / Sundance Selects will release On the Road in North America. The film opens today in France.

Kristen Stewart, Sam Riley, Garret Hedlund: upcoming movies

Kristen Stewart, best known as the Bella Swan of the Twilight film series, has two other 2012 movies coming out:

Sam Riley, who earned wide acclaim for his performance as Joy Division's Ian Curtis in Anton Corbijn's Control, will next be seen in Neil Jordan's Byzantium, which should open later this year. Also featured in Byzantium are Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Jonny Lee Miller, Caleb Landry Jones, Tom Hollander, and Daniel Mays.

TRON: Legacy's Garrett Hedlund stars in Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, which comes out in February 2013. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Alex Karpovsky, Oscar Isaac, and Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) co-star. Hedlund's previously announced Akira (which at one point was to have co-starred Kristen Stewart) seems to be a no-go for the time being.

Kristen Stewart as Marylou picture: screencap from IFC Films' On the Road.

Kristen Stewart smoking pot On the RoadOn the Road's English-language reviews have been mixed. (Please scroll down for snippets from a handful of US/UK reviews.) Walter Salles directed the long-gestating movie adaptation of Jack Kerouac's 1950s' novel about his road trips in the post-World War II United States. The On the Road cast is headed by TRON: Legacy's Garrett Hedlund, Control's Sam Riley, and Twilight's Kristen Stewart (photo), who landed the role after Salles saw her in Into the Wild.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: “Walter Salles has brought to Cannes a good-looking but directionless and self-adoring road movie … It's comparable to Salless' 2004 film The Motorcycle Diaries about the early adventures of Che Guevara and his buddy Alberto Granado – but there the travelers were learning to think and care about people other than themselves. This really isn't the case with the heroes of On the Road, who strenuously insist on how passionate and life-affirming they are, with dozens of self-consciously staged parties, in which the characters heroically swig from bottles, smoke joints, have sex and become narcissistic, flatulent and boring in a way that isn't entirely intentional.”

Digital Spy's Jonathan Crocker: “Stepping on the screen bare-ass naked, Hedlund might not be Brando but his decadent free spirit rapidly becomes the reason to watch Salless' vibey, drifting movie. As Kerouac alter ego Sal, Riley is watchable but mannered. And Stewart, like most of the actresses in the film, has little to do except get nailed by Hedlund.

“There are asses and breasts aplenty from the runaway wild things, not to mention an image of Steve Buscemi that might need some psychological scrubbing afterwards. But despite the naked flesh, On the Road lacks erotic charge and – like its characters – continues searching for purpose and emotion right until the end.”

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy: “But there are several barriers to representing On the Road in effective movie terms. First is the lack of dramatic structure; the book is about several journeys, each eventful in its own way, but it remains fitfully episodic. The filmmakers deal with this by making a climax out of Kerouac finally breaking through his creative block and writing the book, but the lonely spectacle of an author typing has never proved cinematically interesting and still doesn't here.”

About the performances, McCarthy says that Garrett Hedlund “he's the one you always watch [among the male characters], and the actor effectively catches the character's impulsive, thrill-seeking, risk-taking, responsibility-avoiding personality.” As for Kristen Stewart, she “is perfect in the role, takes off her clothes more than once and nearly always seems to be breaking a sweat, which kicks the sexiness quotient up high.”

On the Road picture: Gregory Smith / Jerry Leider Company.

On the Road Sam Riley Sal Paradise Garrett Hedlund Dean Moriarty
On the Road: Sam Riley / Sal Paradise, Garrett Hedlund Dean Moriarty

On the Road reviews have been generally positive – though not without reservations. (Please scroll down for snippets from a few French reviews.) Walter Salles directed the movie version of Jack Kerouac's dramatically loose 1957 semi-autobiographical novel (written in 1951) about his road trips throughout the post-World War II United States. The On the Road cast is headed by TRON: Legacy's Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady), Control's Sam Riley (Sal Paradise / Kerouac), and Twilight's Kristen Stewart (Marylou / LouAnne Henderson, Cassady's wife at one point).

On the Road opens in France today. It opens in The Netherlands tomorrow. Within the next few months, the film will come out in a number of other countries, including Brazil (June), Sweden (July), Denmark (August), the UK (September), Australia (October), and Argentina (November). IFC Films / Sundance Selects will distribute On the Road in North America, though a specific release date hasn't been announced yet.

On the Road's supporting cast includes Viggo Mortensen, Tom Sturridge, Danny Morgan, Amy Adams, Alice Braga, Elisabeth Moss, and Kirsten Dunst. Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries collaborator José Rivera wrote the screenplay adaptation, while Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the rights to the novel more than three decades ago, is listed as an executive producer. Brokeback Mountain's Gustavo Santaolalla composed the score.

Ah, and while watching On the Road, based on that most iconic of modern American novels, make sure to remember that it was directed by a Brazilian filmmaker and produced by French-Brazilian-Canadian companies. No American studio wanted to touch it.

And when you feel mesmerized by the grandiose American vistas, bear in mind that you may be actually looking at Canada, Mexico, or Argentina, where some of the movie was shot.

So, here are a few snippets from On the Road French reviews.

“Buoyed by the energy and youthful grace of his actors (with special mention going to Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, stunning), On the Road nicely retraces this in-between period when everything is possible, just before the arrival of the time for regrets …” Christophe Narbonne, Premiere.

Regarding the “discovery” of Kristen Stewart, Narbonne adds, “The outrageous conduct of the Twilight star (and let's not forget Welcome to the Rileys) not only makes her affecting, but it also shows a boldness that is rare in actresses of her generation.”

In Le Nouvel Observateur, Marie-Elisabeth Rouchy calls On the Road “magnificent,” adding that “we feel the road almost in a physical manner. I loved it! It's a favorite!"

Fellow Nouvel Observateur film critic Lucie Carlet had her reservations: “It's a beautiful film, shot by cinematographer Eric Gautier; the actors are all great … But I'm a little troubled because the film poses the question: 'What is expected of an adaptation?' To adapt a novel such as one written by Kerouac, one would have had to create an equivalent to the original's formal and aesthetic staging. That's not there. Kerouac was very much the man of the swing, of stream-of-consciousness literature … of orgasm. And I found the movie a bit too illustrative.”

Camille Esnault at toutlecine.com: “Walter Salles doesn't take too many risks, opting to present an adaptation in a more classical form, whether in the screenplay, the music, or the editing … On the Road does not fully take us along with it, but at times we managed to learn practices of a generation whose main objective was the pursuit of pleasure in sex, drugs, danger.”

On the Road picture: Gregory Smith / Jerry Leider Company.

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5 Comments to 'On the Road' Movie Reviews: Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart Praised

  1. J.A. Michel Bornais

    Bonjour to you all,

    No, I'm not French, from France I mean… just Quebecois, From my experience and travels in France, I can assure you that the French only know Jack through the sizzling myth of On The Road and their own phantasms. And so is it the case here in Quebec or anywhere else in the world. I've been presenting a lecture since 2003 as member of the Association des familles Kirouac; my late mother was Leona Kirouac. It's about Jack or, Jean-Louis Kirouac, as he was baptized. The tiltle is “Jack Kerouac… Le mal-aimé”, (The one we fear “or hate” to love). The subject ? Jack's very thin and uneasy relations with the family and mainly, the extremely sad story of his unique child, his daughter Janette (Jan) Michelle Kerouac, abandonned On The Road before her birth, with hell to share and being later robbed of everything, even the memory of her father by a forged signature on the will of her grand-mother Gabrielle Levesque. When Jack's fans who often don't appreciate discovering the drama hidden between the lines of On The Road, ask me why I reveal all that, I just turn around, point at Jan's photo and say: I do it for her who is still denied the right to exist. In French as I say it: “C'est mon devoir de mémoire pour celle qui n'a pas le droit d'exister.

    So, when you write that the French know f… all about Jack, I can't agree more, but they sure don't have the monopoly of ignorance.

    J.A. Michel Bornais
    Quebec City

  2. Carole

    Tessa, have you watched On the Road? If not, why do you have an opinion?

    Many American critics said good things about Kristen Stewart. Do they know nothing about Kerouac?

    The French also love Sartre, Beauvoir, Signoret, Deneuve, Philipe, Huppert, Resnais and Truffaut. And Bette Davis and Charlotte Rampling and Jean Seberg. Remember that.

  3. Tessa

    But they're French. They love Jerry Lewis, so Kristin Stewart is in the same silly category. What the hell do they know about Kerouac? Apparently, nothing.

  4. sss

    you see Kristen was amazing and you all just keep witing for her to fail, in yoir face!!

  5. sage

    Sad to see something so real turned into Hollywood fad of the day.—sage