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Kristen Stewart stars in 'On the Road'

'On the Road' isn't worth the wait caused by the project's long development period.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / December 21, 2012

Sam Riley (l.) and Garrett Hedlund (r.) star in 'On the Road.'

IFC Films/Sundance Selects/AP

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Jack Kerouac’s iconic novel “On the Road” has been in Hollywood’s cross hairs ever since it was published back in 1957. Kerouac himself wanted Marlon Brando to make a movie of it, and for many years, Francis Ford Coppola was involved. He’s still listed as an executive producer for the Walter Salles film of “On the Road,” starring Sam Riley as Sal (modeled on Kerouac), Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty (based on Neal Cassady) and Kristen Stewart as Dean’s mercurial wife Marylou (based on LuAnne Henderson).

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Was it worth the wait? Not really, and not just because the wait has outlasted the story’s immediacy. Kerouac’s novel about wayfaring bohemians hitting the open road is a classic expression of the American dream; but the way it’s done here, it seems more like a time capsule that’s been dug up long past its expiration date. Salles tries to approximate Kerouac’s hopped-up prose by shooting the film in jittery jump-cuts, and the actors seem to be careening between scenes rather than inhabiting them. It’s all rather exhausting, as opposed to exhilirating. Grade: C (Rated R for strong sexual content, drug use and language.)

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