My wife and I watched On The Road the other night. This is the Walter Salles rendition of the Jack Kerouac book of the same name. At the end of the movie we both had the exact same opinion; the movie had the exact same feel as the book and neither of us cared.
I am not saying the movie is completely faithful to the book. There is no way I could say that because after three attempts to actually finish the book I finally gave up. Reading On The Road is like reading a 1000 page technical specification. Each page tells you something and the story advances but there is no point to it. There is no compelling reason to turn the page.
The movie is the same. Each new scene is a consistent extension of the movie, but who cares? I have no more interest in the characters and their situation than I do the day to day office life of my neighbor three doors down. I don’t blame the director, or the actors, or the script. I think they probably did an commendable job bringing the book to the screen. The problem is the book, the story itself.
The movie (and the 100 or so pages of the book that I managed to read) unfold like a diary of a day in the life of the average guy. Sure, they did unusual not so average things. Not everyone runs off to Mexican whorehouses on a whim and gets dysentery. Not everyone drives across the USA living on shoplifted food and amphetamines. But who cares? There is no tension. We don’t care about the people. We are not interested in their next exploit.
Maybe it’s generational and I just don’t relate. The Beat Generation is before my time. I don’t appreciation Johnny Knoxville either. Is On The Road simply the Jackass of it’s time? A bunch of 20 somethings off doing immature and irresponsible party tricks to the amusement of only themselves and their friends?
A book that rates being labeled a classic and called a “defining work of the post-war generation”? Maybe. Entertainment? No way.