This new languishing Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) drama doesn't have the unbridled audacity in a rhythmic, but mostly ungratifying adaptation of Jack Kerouac's much lauded partially autobiographical 1957 Beat Generation book. The fore bearers of a larger countercultural movement does resonate at times largely due to its vibrant soundtrack and Eric Gauthier's plush lensing representative of the exhausting efforts the helmer puts forth through a polished production.
On The Road (which might be embraced a little by those devoted to series like HBO's Entourage) stars Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and Kristen Stewart and traverses (from 1947) the New York jazz club scene, as well as the Big Easy, San Francisco, and even South of the Border.
Riley's Sal Paradise, an aspiring Big Apple writer who lost his father, is on a path to check out the artistic and experimental in a country beginning to experience postwar change. He'll be influenced and more than tempted by Hedlund's devastatingly disarming former Lothario-type criminal from Denver, Dean Moriarty (also fatherless), with young wife Marylou (Stewart of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt.2). It turns out Dean has a mistress in Camille (Kirsten Dunst) and draws a gay poet Carlo (Tom Sturridge channeling Allen Ginsberg) from the jazz milieu into his impulsive, sybaritic tendencies.
The filmmaking aims to intimately express what is too sketchy and episodic for the screen by scribe Jose Rivera. You figure there might be some thrills to be had in On The Road but besides being in the front seat with Sal, Dean, and Marylou, as a free-spirited Stewart (who did better under Sean Penn's direction in Into The Wild and in other indies like The Runaways) offers, at least in one instance, quite the stimulation.
Salles (probably not the ideal helmer for this material which took five years to get to the screen) unfortunately settles into a slavish, mostly tedious routine with nary an empathetic character even with some decent support by Steve Buscemi as a creepy salesman and Viggo Mortensen as goofy writer Old Bull Lee, a William S. Burroughs model, with a deranged love interest played by Amy Adams.
Ultimately in On The Road the performers like a subdued Riley, a charismatic Hedlund and classy Dunst whose Camille gave Dean some kids do their best to tap into what should have been more enlivened by the spirit by the freewheeling characters of a movement more rivetingly presented by Kerouac himself.