THE BLOG
12/14/2012 10:55 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Popcorn Preview: On the Road

Film: On the Road (2012)
Cast includes: Sam Ridley (Control), Garrett Hedlund (Four Brothers), Tom Sturridge (Priate Radio), Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man), Viggo Mortensen (The Road), Steve Buscemi (Fargo), Terrence Howard (Crash), Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Director: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries)
Genre: Drama (124 minutes)

New York City, 1947... "I first met Dean after my father died..." Sal also mentions his "serious illness" following his father's death. "Dean had just arrived in New York from Denver. He married a 16-year-old chick named Mary Lou." Dean answers the door in the nude and it's obviously that he and Mary Lou were in the middle of love-making, but Carlo and Sal are enthusiastically welcomed... with alcohol and marijuana. In fact, nearly every scene is smoldering in tobacco and marijuana smoke. At a bar, Dean and Sal toast their fathers. "The day before my father died, he took my hands. He said, 'You have no calluses because you don't do any fucking work.'" Sal and Dean became instant friends. Dean tells us, "Dean reminded me of a long-lost brother." He went on to say, "He was conning me, and I knew it. He knew I knew it, but that was the basis of our relationship."

We learn that Dean is a talented writer, but despite his detailed journal, he can't face the blank page. When Dean and Mary Lou return to Denver and invite Sal, Dean packs a bag and gets on the bus. "I began my life on the road... I was a young writer trying to take off." In Denver, Sal learns about Dean's other lover, Camille. Carlo's there, too, and the love-making often turns into Benzedrine-heightened threesomes, or more, even though Carlo would rather have an exclusive with Dean. Carlo will soon leave for Africa to "pick up dark and mysterious men." The group of friends is constantly in flux, as whim takes them from place to place. Sal's at the center of the story because he's the one who will eventually write the book.

Before hippies and "free love,"before beatniks, there was a group of 20-year-olds pushing social boundaries. Some of them, such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, captured their experiences and philosophy in prose and poetry that gave rise to what we would later call the "beat generation." Kerouac's culture-bending novel, On the Road, was based on his experiences during post-war 1940s. The characters are based on actual people. Even though the names have been changed, it was never difficult to figure out who was who. One of the most significant challenges of the film is to make us feel as if we're seeing this lifestyle with a fresh eye. The film does a terrific job of putting us in the era and making us feel like we're actually there. They do it with excellent cinematography and production design, a great sound track and a naturalistic acting style. Not everyone will warm to this one. The plot is so sparsely sprinkled in that you almost don't notice it until the end. But if the era interests you, they've done a great job of rendering it. Much of the dialog comes from the book, and there are many memorable lines. "Bless me Father, for I shall sin."

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Film version of Jack Kerouac's culture-bending book about the early days of the beat generation

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, nudity, sexual content, drugs)
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought provoking

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