Tag Archives: Sam Riley

On the Road (2012) or livewithfilm stops scatting to hitch a ride…

10 Oct

Ahead lies the road: hurtling down it steams this twitching, scintillating, rambunctious film, full of possibility and brimming with life. Spewed from Kerouac’s text yet in reality an independent piece in an entirely different medium, On the Road cannot be compared to its source. So indicative of a mood and bound within its form, the written journey remains unfilmable. Yet this is not to say Walter Salles’ film does not neatly harness that feeling and form a loving interpretation of it. While a little baggy (a near unforgivable misstep given the tightly wound quality of its source), On the Road burns with a flame even Dean Moriarty could appreciate.


Opening on the crowded art scene of New York circa 1947, On the Road plunges deep into the mangled worlds of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge). Cutting violently and switching from hapless poet to wayward love interest, Salles utterly evokes this existence in his form, reproducing at once the heady highs of hipster life and the crippling incongruity these characters feel amid the stayed establishment.


Igniting their lives, Dean drives Sal and Carlo to further psychological and sexual lengths. Captivating and dauntingly bold, Hedlund utterly convinces as the formidable Dean. Slowly becoming the driving force of On the Road, Hedlund sucks attention towards him, remaining at once a thrilling and wretched presence.


As Dean and Carlo make their way to Denver, Sal is left to make his own way out of his city. With Sal travelling through evocative mountains, cotton fields and blazing sun, the camera still manages to resist simple shots. Jittering away like Sal’s itching lust for the road, Salles’ frame finds an intriguing abnormality in every image.


Finding themselves together once again, Sal and the newly married Dean venture out on an adventure of their own. Neatly followed by a near omnipresent musical beat, the duo storm towns and cities, continuing their search for an identity that constantly eludes them.


The host of hangers-on come to define On the Road, discarded and picked up with a surprising brutality. While Viggo Mortensen cleaves an exceptionally dark streak through the film’s mid-section as heroin addict Old Bull Lee, Kristen Stewart pulls in a career defining performance as Dean’s on-off wife Marylou to retain a feminine defiance amongst the male bravura. Even as Kirsten Dunst seems a little out of place throughout, her ever-harassed Camille suits her aloof presence. Calling Sal to dance, a filtered camera evokes the heroines of classical Hollywood in Camille, while all those around her flee for the future.


On the Road remains at its strongest when twitching with youthful exuberance. When attempting to force a fixed narrative voice onto the plot through voiceover, Salles only serves to slow the pace and stifle the wildness. Yet at its height, On the Road remains a trip to remember.