Film Review: On The Road

There is an expression that it’s better to say nothing at all if you can’t say anything nice; but when it comes to reviewing films that is a little tricky to say the least. Now normally, it’s not a problem, it’s very hard to make a film in which there is nothing good to focus upon. And yet, sadly, Walter Salles has managed to do exactly that with On The Road.

If you want me to sum this film up concisely and briefly then it’s this: sex, drugs and nothing else. And I’m not joking. This film is nothing more than a bunch of freeloading, criminal teenagers smoking marijuana and promiscuously shagging each other apparently in the name of self discovery and literature. It’s boring, pointless and borderline repulsive. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so bored by a film that I honestly came close to giving up and turning it off.

Kirsten Stewart - On The Road

Taking a chronological, bullet point style approach to my hatred, my first issue lies with the dialogue of diction of the main characters. I don’t know if it was just an issue with the streaming service I accessed the film through, but the speech in this film felt totally disconnected, almost as if what I was hearing had been dubbed over the footage in post production, because the main protagonists suffered badly from a case of the voice never fitting the face. Although, that wasn’t too much of a problem because everything is so deep, and low, and muffled that I couldn’t make out half the script anyway. If you thought Matthew McConaughey was bad in True Detective, for indiscernible mumbling, our leads in this take raise it to a whole new level.

And so, having no idea what people were saying to each other, and with actions now having to speak louder than words, I was left relying on the plot to give me an idea as to what was going on. A plot, which appears almost nomadic in that it never fits together and the longer the film goes on, the more the pieces seem to drift further and further apart. The story almost feels like a series of drunken tales of nonsense, smashed together in the head of the director. I have this overriding feeling that this is a case of a film making total sense if you’re drunk and unable to work out the sum of it’s parts, but attempt it in normal sobriety and it just feels more like a bad hangover the next morning.

Classic Car Era - On The Road

A hangover which is compounded by the fact that the tone, style and era this film tries to portray just feels wrong. They claim it is set as the 1940s drift into the 1950s and apart from some period sets and classic cars, nothing feels right. The dress sense, the mannerisms, the frivolity all feel misplaced and wrong. We have characters that look lifted straight from the 1970s and dropped into a world that looks 1920s only to be told we’re looking at a post war society.

This world just isn’t dark enough, isn’t sad enough. There is no reflection on previous loss. Of the hard years just gone. We’re only a few years post rationing in America and while a return to normality can be expected the amount of endless excess shown on screen just felt wrong. I may be judging expectations of an era before my time through preconceived eyes, but this world of stupidity I felt treated to almost seemed to pretend the War never happened.

And the complete fractioning of the tone of this film is finished perfectly through its soundtrack. Massive parts of the incomphrendable plot are accompanied by the tones of classical violin and string quartets. Music which would feel fair more at home in the period dramas of the late 18th Century and not the rural outcrop of middle America.

Sam Riley & Garrett Hedlund - On The Road

One place where this film surprises most though is in it’s support cast. Lead into disaster by the lead of Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund; you look at the populace around them as almost an A-List “Who’s Who”. But rather than provide a safety net to support any apex weakness, they just get dragged down under the weight of expectation to salvage this mess. And aside from Kristen Stewart, who I actually found enjoyable to watch, everyone else just look like props designed to add the power of a “name” to the poster in a cynical attempt to get audience figures up.

I have this horrible feeling that I have totally missed the point of this film. That some huge underlying plot or meaning has passed me by and destroyed any chance of enjoyment. Sadly though, there is no way I’m going to watch this film again to find out. Once was once too many.

3 out of 10 stars (3 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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