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'On the Road' review - Cannes Film Festival 2012

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Director: Walter Salles; Screenwriter: Jose Rivera; Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen


There are sex, drugs, driving and Kristen Stewart as the best travelling buddy imaginable in On the Road, tugging together (quite literally) a bromantic American odyssey between Beat generation icons Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Sal Paradise (Sam Riley).

But really, the Twilight star is just Hollywood scenery - Terrence Howard, Elisabeth Moss, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Tom Sturridge are the rest - compared to Tron: Legacy hero Garrett Hedlund. With his whiskey-soaked, cigarette-stained voice and lived-in handsomeness, he cranks up several gears in star charisma to form the gravitational centre of Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles's long-awaited roadtripper.

Everything from Easy Rider to Fear and Loathing owes something to Jack Kerouac's hugely-influential semi-autobiographical novel, which details a series of trips taken by Kerouac and his friends across the USA and into Mexico after World War II.

'On The Road' still: Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund
Six years after writing On the Road, Kerouac penned a one-page letter to Marlon Brando asking him to play Dean Moriarty, with Kerouac himself playing Sal Paradise.

Brando never wrote back and a big screen adaptation has been in development hell ever since, with Francis Ford Coppola trying for two decades to get cameras rolling.

Stepping on the screen bare-ass naked, Hedlund might not be Brando but his decadent free spirit rapidly becomes the reason to watch Salles's vibey, drifting movie. As Kerouac alter ego Sal, Riley is watchable but mannered. And Stewart, like most of the actresses in the film, has little to do except get nailed by Hedlund.

There are asses and breasts aplenty from the runaway wild things, not to mention an image of Steve Buscemi that might need some psychological scrubbing afterwards. But despite the naked flesh, On the Road lacks erotic charge and - like its characters - continues searching for purpose and emotion right until the end.

Unsurprisingly, it's beautifully lensed by cinematographer Eric Gautier and the '40s period taste feels authentic and energetic. But Salles never seems to fall in love with the American landscape as his movie motors along. And despite all that jazz, he never quite succeeds in making their journey ours.


Photo gallery - Cannes Film Festival 2012 in pictures:

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