(director: Walter Salles; screenwriter: Jose Rivera/based on the novel On The Road by Jack Kerouc; cinematographer: Eric Gautier; editor: Francois Gedigier; music: Gustavo Santaolalla; cast: Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady), Sam Riley(Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac), Kristen Stewart(Marylou/LuAnne Henderson), Amy Adams(Jane/Joan Vollmer), Tom Sturridge(Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg), Danny Morgan(Ed Dunkel/Al Hinkle), Alice Braga (Terry/Bea Franco), Marie-Ginette Guay(Ma Paradise), Elisabeth Moss(Galatea Dunkel/Helen Hinkle), Kirsten Dunst (Camille/Carolyn Cassady), Viggo Mortensen (Old Bull Lee/William S. Burroughs), Steve Buscemi (Salesman); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Nathanael Karmitz/Charles Gillibert/Rebecca Yeldham/Roman Coppola; Sundance Selects/IFC Film; 2012-France/Brazil-in English and French, with English subtitles when necessary)

“Too calculated and respectful to bring on any needed spontaneity.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The slick commercial Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles(“Behind the Sun”/”The Motorcycle Diaries”/”Central Station”), though a talented director, was the wrong choice to helm such an edgy anti-establishment story, as he flattens it out, gets no tension until too late and fails to do much with the Beatnik Bible by being too calculated and respectful to bring on any needed spontaneity. It’s a well-crafted and visually pleasing major disappointment, that leaves an empty feeling about Jack Kerouc’s dated 1957 classic. It’s written by Jose Rivera as if a primer for a by-the-numbers period biopic, laying out the details of the journey across a long gone America and of the eccentric road characters. Kerouc’s semi-autobiographical tale of a non-conformist free-spirit’s wandering lifestyle and as a seeker of knowledge, never hits the road on film with the same magic as Kerouc’s fluid writing.

Just after his father’s death, in 1947, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), Kerouc’s alter ego, an aspiring and curious French-Canadian writer living in Queens, NY, meets the handsome womanizer, pot smoker and car thief Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), Neal Cassady’s alter ego, a reckless, charming and energetic ex-con from Colorado, married to the seductive 16-year-old Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Determined not to get locked into a boring square life Dean and Marylou return to Denver, and later Sal cuts ties with the city and hitch-hikes to Denver to see Dean, who has a child with classy blonde Camille (Kirsten Dunst) while continuing his relationship with Marylou. The gist of the film has the four adventurers hitting the road together and taking part in orgies, pot smoking and jazz.

Hedlund has the meatiest role in the pic and steals it from Riley’s more subdued self-discovery Kerouc characterization. There’s fine support from supporting actors Tom Sturridge as Carlo Marx (the Allen Ginsberg sensitive homosexual poet figure); from Amy Adams as the deranged Jane, a young woman who is shacking up with Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen, who in his cameo also has fun playing the alter ego of William S. Burroughs); while Steve Buscemi pops up on the road as a creepy older gay salesman on the make for boys.

The overlong episodic film, with a sketchy storyline, never felt quite right or hip, and was mostly a drag that failed to capture the spirit or zeal of the freewheeling characters, something that made the much admired book such an unforgettable read.

REVIEWED ON 11/26/2012 GRADE: C+