On the Road
Directed by Walter Salles
Cornerhouse, 13 October 2012
It’s a fine film, an engrossing adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s first and by far his best novel. His talent, genuine though it was, burned out early.
Few have written so powerfully about friendship, however, or so movingly.
The friendship between Sal (Jack) and Dean, that’s the main affair, though Dean also touches the life of Ginsberg, or the character who stands in for him, any roads. If Sal needs Dean at first, by the end he has outgrown him. Although he’ll always (or always claim to) carry the scars of betrayal, maybe he used him all along. Writers use people.
What’s also on show is the route that leads from romanticism to disillusion: Sal apparently hero-worships Dean at the start and can see nothing but exciting, vital adventures ahead. Yet as the heartaches, seedy deals, crippled promises and wreckages of hope pile up, the penny finally drops. At the end it’s a case of Thanks but no thanks. Sal retreats to the bosom of his mother (he always had that safety net) and lets Dean get on with the business of survival.
When you see the film, do watch out for Viggo Mortensen, who gives an entertaining turn as Lee (Burroughs). Exact, eccentric, and no doubt exasperating to others around him, this was at a time when Burroughs’ wife was alive and he was just shooting at bottles and small forest animals.
An excellent film, this.