I went into watching this 2012 film, based on the Jack Kerouac novel, without conclusively remembering that it had ever been made. A few weeks ago, I was remembering how a friend of mind had auditioned for this film for Francis Ford Coppola back in 1995 and wondered why it never got made. As I was scrolling through Hulu the other night to watch something, this popped up. Low and behold, it was made! Coppola was the executive producer and it actually garnered a decent amount of attention for indie films back in 2012, and with Kristen Stewart fresh off of Twilight success, that doesn't surprise. What does surprise me is that I completely missed it.
Though I'm big fan of the Beat Generation, I will admit that On the Road is a book that never managed to grab my adoration. I much prefer Dharma Bums than this one. I mention this so that it is clear that my review of the film is not from an individual who holds the novel on a pedestal. Perhaps that is why I was able to thoroughly enjoy this adaptation. Others seem to miss the sense of freedom celebrated by the novel, which has been replaced with a more mature reflective nature of the pitfalls of self-destructive behavior, an attitude that Kerouac wouldn't express until later in his career.
I found this film to be extremely genuine. The cast was wonderful and never tried to overact or seem to take into account that they were portraying iconic figures. Often when given a role like that, it seems actors easily founder. The cast in here was pretty fantastic, and I think it helped that they were relatively unknowns. The look of the film was also great, not over stylized and never bland. It's depictions of madness, joy, regret, and artistic struggle were poignant and poetic. By the end, it made me want to revisit the book and see if I'd missed something when I read it 25 years ago.