"I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion": a review of On The Road

Posted by on Thursday, August 8, 2013

I first read On the Road in my senior year of high school. At least, I think I did. I have read it four, five, or six times, and it has become such a part of my life that I feel like I read it before I was born or something. I also have a really bad memory.

The book changed my life. I was like a religious fanatic, eager to share it with anyone who would listen. It gave me the courage to pull myself up out of a slump (or at least try to). I connected with Jack Kerouac more than I had ever connected with anyone. I felt understood, forgiven, encouraged, and less alone.

Naturally, I flipped out when I heard that film plans had come to fruition. I visited the Beat Museum in North Beach (San Francisco, across from City Lights), which is actually a really cool place. You should go visit it. Jerry, the guy who runs it, is the nicest. Anyway, Jerry was really enthusiastic about the film, which made me excited as well. I watched Sam Riley (Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac) play Ian Curtis in Control, and he was amazing. We didn't have any money to make the 90-minute drive to see it when it came out, so I finally got OTR on Redbox two nights ago.

Guys, I was disappointed. Like, soul crushingly disappointed. The book is essentially about Dean/Neal, but it isn't at the same time. The book is about Jack/Sal's search for fulfillment, which he finds (or attempts to find) through Dean/Neal, traveling, writing, and women. The book is sad at its root, but it is also hopeful and exciting.

The film focuses largely on Dean and his ability to find somebody to have sex with anywhere and at any time. It's sad, but it also feels a little empty. Important scenes are presented in snippets; with the exception of one or two scenes, the only scenes that extend over two or three minutes are the sex scenes.

Watching this movie felt like being in the same town as someone you love, maybe someone you used to call your best friend. You are so excited to see him or her because of the history you share, but when you do finally meet, the person is different. It feels like spending time with an acquaintance. You catch up, but all you want to do is tell him/her how you are feeling, how much you need him/her.

The cinematography is beautiful, though. And it didn't SUCK. It just wasn't the book.

One Comment

  1. It's so hard to see movies turned into books. There's no way a movie can fit all of the awesomeness of the book into a couple hours. I usually have a hard time when they do things in the movie that weren't in the book at all. But lately when I've gone to see books turned into movies, I try to remember that it's a movie adaptation and not an exact replica because I'm usually less disappointed that way. The director has the creative license to portray the book in the way he/she thinks it would best come across for a film. And since books are art and art is subjective, unfortunately that isn't always the way I thought of the book.
    I really love The Hunger Games and I didn't like the movie the first time I saw it, but the more I watched it the more it grew on me and the more I was able to appreciate and respect the director's choices. I really liked the Perks of Being a Wallflower the first time I saw it, but that was kind of a given since the author was a screenwriter and wrote and directed the movie. I was really nervous to see The Great Gatsby. I had read a lot of reviews and it seemed like a lot of people were disappointed with it. So going in I wasn't expecting very much. I ended up liking it, and when I saw it a second time, I loved it. I didn't study the book at great lengths, and my literary background isn't very extensive so my love of the book is probably not as deep as an English major's, but I think Baz Luhrmann did it justice aesthetically and thematically.
    I'm trying to keep this all in mind when I see Ender's Game because I already know the actors aren't as young as the characters in the book. And sometimes film adaptations just flat out suck and there really isn't much to redeem them.


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