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On the Road delivers at UICA

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On the Road brings Jack Kerouac's novel into the 21st century, for better or worse.
Underwriting support from:

Eric Kehoe

Show times for "On the Road" at The UICA

April 5 2013—April 11 2013

4/5 Friday – 2:00, 8:00 p.m.
4/6 Saturday – 2:00, 8:00 p.m.
4/7 Sunday – 2:00, 7:00 p.m.
4/8 Monday – Closed
4/9 Tuesday – 8:00 p.m.
4/10 Wednesday – 8:00 p.m.
4/11 Thursday – 8:00 p.m.

Check out the film lineup at The UICA

Jack Kerouac never imagined his sprawling 1957 novel "On the Road" as a film. The unfiltered, energetic work of literature could not be confined to ninety minutes of rising action, climax and resolution.

But "On the Road" as a film we received: a film that is more interpretation than adaptation. Directed by Walter Salles, the movie sets out to be a frothy, 21st century hipster love story about freedom and finding oneself, shedding the trashy, darkly resonant aura of the novel for a cleaner, more linear script.

Set between the east and west coasts of America, "On the Road" follows the wanderings of wide-eyed failed writer Sal Paradise, his intoxicated, unremitting friend Dean Moriarty and a trove of curious characters who cross paths throughout the movie. Following the death of his father, Paradise sets off on an unorthodox quest: not going someplace, but just going.

Therein lies both the beauty and downfall of "On the Road." Paradise visits plenty of the American landscape's loveliest spots, and the cinematography ably captures the grandeur of the country. Every scene, every camera shot, matters. Not only is the scenery spectacular, but the dialogue is wonderfully edited, as subtle facial cues and glances say words unfortunately cut from the novel for the big screen.

But the story of Kerouac as Paradise cannot be reduced to film. It's too big. Each scene leaves us wanting more: more dialogue, more sex, more drugs, more sadness, more life. Besides lines spoken verbatim from the novel, the dialogue feels too clean and, surprise!, scripted, something the novel was far from being.

Even with an average script, some actors do shine. Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty steals the show; his manic mood swings and insatiable appetite for drugs and sex makes the viewer cling to his every scene. Kristen Stewart as Marylou provides an evenhanded performance, her presence contrasting the hyperactive Moriarty with the despondent Sal Paradise, as played by Sam Riley.

Although the script falters when compared to Kerouac's novel, taken on its own accord, the movie is worth your time. The landscape is beautiful, the movie is precisely edited and the characters portray the twentysomething angst of present day America: underemployed, struggling for freedom, all the while loving and missing their mothers. Everyone at some point feels that "home I'll never be," and "On the Road" walks you though the journey from one lost home to the next. It is today's "On the Road," for better or worse. 

Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge), the incarnation of famed beat poet Allen Ginsberg, says it best: "I know I'm 23; I know that I rely on my friends and family for money; I know there's no gold at the end of the rainbow. There's just shit and piss. But to know that: that makes me free."

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