Calling On the Road a display of unabashed obnoxiousness is to call a double leg amputation, subsequent MRSA infection, sepsis, and liver failure a minor inconvenience. Never in the history of my life have I seen a more effective justification for getting rid of all art programs and the legalization of vehicular homicide of hitchhikers.
Aspiring writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) is not interesting. In order to “have experiences” he sets out on a trip across the United States, taking to the road. It would be far too hum-drum to take public transportation, so Sal sticks out his thumb and zig-zags across the country on a trip that takes several years. On his travels he meets up with his friends, the pathetic cliché Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge), and the self-important, hard-cocked Dean Moriaty (Garrett Hedlund) and Dean's father's-worst-nightmare teenaged wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart) as he zig-zags across the country. They have sex, steal, drive, yell at each other, and complain all while pretending they've figured out something about life everyone else missed. It is a co-dependent's wet dream.
Putting a loathsome bunch of horned up losers in the same film, set the movie in a cramped Nash and have the characters stop for the occasional, uncomfortable, drug-fueled sexual encounter, act of petty theft, or to meet another bleary-brained individual is not interesting. It was like listening to a bunch of high AA drop outs discuss their drug-addled victories, painfully unaware that their triumphs are wholly average acts performed by assholes everywhere, everyday. Had I been introduced to these people in real life, I would have left and immediately removed the number from my phone of the person who introduced us. I would then seek professional help to figure out what was so broken about me that I would end up in the same room with such a wretched bunch of gutter trolls.
On the Road suffers from a total lack of acting. Stewart, Hedlund, and Sturridge make up the majority of the screen time and have the emotive prowess of a hunk of half chewed donkey fat – there is a story there, but unless someone else steps in to tell it – it's just a bit of gristle to feed to the dog. Then again, I like my dog.
Director Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera rely on narration to fill in plot gaps and move the story along – as if we wouldn't notice. While we are subject to visual irritations of ugly bits of road and asphalt aplenty – Riley blathers some psuedo-philosophical deepity the way an average person tries to sound like a genius, but in his case he is a dull druggie trying to sound engrossing. I've never been so proud to be bourgeoisie.
This movie can only serve to suck the self-esteem of the sane folks who find the characters annoying and boost the egos of self-marginalizing substance abusers seeking enlightenment. Either way, please don't see it or let anyone else see it. I fear for our society if too many people do see it. Oh god, what if Deepak Chopra sees it? I'm scared.