[This is a re-post of my review from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. On the Road opens today in limited release.]
Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road is a novel that inspired a generation of restless young men and women to break free from their comfort zones, broaden their horizons, and look to the majesty of America. Walter Salles‘ On the Road is a film adaptation that will inspire a generation of lazy high school kids to watch the movie instead of reading the book. Salles snaps up the words of Kerouac’s novel, but not their spirit. The movie shouldn’t simply regurgitate the book because adaptation should be a work of inspiration and not imitation. But there’s nothing inspired about Salles’ picture. It’s safe where it should be dangerous. It’s lugubrious when it should be explosive. It’s derivative when it should be daring. Despite glimmers of an emotionally moving story, On the Road rarely has the energy to get up and bravely venture forth beyond the plot constraints of a book that’s not driven by its plot.