Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

‘On the Road’ disappoints despite having a lot going for it

Date: 9/19/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

An outstanding cop drama and a really bad adaptation of a literary classic are featured in this week’s film review column.

On Blu-ray: On the Road

This adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s influential book that defined the “Beat Generation” is a major disappointment, despite having a capable cast, a superb recreation of post-war America and beautiful photography.

The problem is how to you adapt a sprawling book such as “On the Road” and how to you establish a context for viewers today to understand just what the Beat Generation was all about?

Kerouac took his characters and some of the incidents from his own life to establish this story of the iconoclasts who influenced the Beatnik movement of the 1950s and early ‘60s as ultimately the hippies of the late 1960s.

Essentially, “On the Road” chronicles a group of young people who rebel against the conventions of America in the period between the end of World War II and the early 1950s. They aren’t conscious rebels, though. Their rebellion consists of not feeling they have to live the life that society has assigned them.

Sal (Sam Riley) is the would-be writer who yearns for the experiences that would be a foundation for his work. Living with his mother in New York City, his life is changed forever when he meets Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) a charismatic hedonist who is most interested in having a good time.

The movie veers quite a distance away from the book I read in college and has some surprisingly explicit sex scenes. I think I would have remembered those!

Director Walter Salles seemed to have been more concerned about the look of the film – it is gorgeous – than a cohesive narrative. Jose River’s screenplay has characters coming in and out of the story with little to no introduction.

Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams and Steve Buscemi make supporting appearances in the film, but the film rests on the shoulders of Riley and Hedlund, which was a problem for me. As portrayed, the two main characters are completely unlikable. Riley plays Sal as a wide-eyed idiot willing to follow Moriarty anywhere. Hedlund’s Moriarty has no redeeming qualities. He is the most self-absorbed character I’ve seen in a long time.

My advice is to re-read the book.

On DVD: Luther Season Three

My wife has been a “Luther” fan since she first discovered the series on BBC America and when the DVD for the third season came in the mail, she was thrilled. I decided to find out what “Luther” was all about.

I was very glad I did, as “Luther” is a great show.

American television is awash with police dramas and it may be difficult to believe that “Luther could be substantially different that something you’ve seen here. First, Detective Chief Inspector John Luther (Idris Elba) is more of a multi-layered almost literary-style character that what we see here. Second. The compelling stories are without gunplay or substantial car chases. Third, there is a true adult quality to the shows and a willingness to subvert the anticipation of the audience.

This four-part series involves Luther tracking down a serial killer long thought dead and fighting for his reputation against a pair of internal affairs officers determined to find any reason to take away his badge.

The result is some very good television and I guarantee you will not be able to watch just one episode at a time.