Is On the Road the first successful attempt to bring Jack Kerouac's beloved novel to the screen? Depends on who you ask. Fans of the Beat Generation will undoubtedly love this film directed by Walter Salles and adapted by Jose Rivera and those familiar with Kerouac's mythos might be able to play along. But if you've never heard of this group of writers and miscreants you might be eating their dust.
On the Road is occasionally beautiful and entirely too long. Its narrator Sal Paradise Kerouac's alter ego is played by Sam Riley with a sort of muted watchfulness; he's an outsider the writer narrating it all along for the ride but the script doesn't do justice to the tastes of Kerouac's writing (although we get a taste in some small voiceovers). Garrett Hedlund owns this movie from top to bottom as Dean Moriarty with his buoyant earthy sexuality and total irresponsibility. In reality Dean is the sort of user and mooch that would be a total drain of energy and resources but we see him as Sal does: alive free sensual somehow utterly honest in his protestations of love and honesty despite his constant betrayals.
Dean is absolutely the sex and love object of the movie his pansexual groove attracting and scaring Sal and in a way breaking his heart. Dean also breaks the hearts of Marylou his on-again off-again child bride played by Kristen Stewart; Camille the mother of his children played by Kirsten Dunst; and most movingly Carlo Marx the alter ego of Allen Ginsberg who is played by Tom Sturridge. Sturridge is excellent as the lovelorn poet who's alternately suicidal and joyous and his scenes with Hedlund are some of the most erotic and moving. The female characters get short shrift especially Marylou who lacks much of a personality; how much of what she does is egged on by Dean and how much is of her own volition? The ballyhoo over her nude scenes were overblown by half; although they're somewhat sexy they're overshadowed by all of the sexual tension between the leads.
Two of the most interesting characters in On the Road are Old Bull Lee and his wife Jane. Bull is the alter ego of William S. Burroughs and Jane is Joan Vollmer Burroughs's common-law wife and the mother of his children. (Vollmer a writer in her own right was accidentally killed by Burroughs.) Jane played by Amy Adams is bizarre and fascinating a wild-haired lady and drug addict and mother of Bull's children but not much more than that. One could watch an entire movie of Viggo Mortensen playing Bull a sharp-dressed heroin addict who nods off with his child in his arms and strips off his clothes to get in an orgone accumulator he built in his backyard. The movie barely makes a pit stop at their crumbling Louisiana farm and their importance in Sal's life and the Beat generation is never quite explained.
One might argue that the loopy timeline of the film mimics the unending road trip of Dean's life but it doesn't serve the final product. Incorporating more of Kerouac's writing as voice-overs or something similar would have given it more life the kind of vivacity Kerouac sought out in spades which is why he tolerated Dean's vagaries for so long. More than most movies it feels like On the Road could have gone in any direction expanding or reducing characters shortening the trips to concentrate on the characters more emphasizing the effects of their missing fathers or not and it's this wishy-washiness that undermines the movie. It feels much longer than it is. It's a loving tribute to its subjects and a movie that acts as a showcase for rising stars Hedlund and Riley but it fizzles when it should burn.
Known for her comedic chops and charming wit on U.S. hit shows like Hot in Cleveland, The Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, White boasts a successful career, which now spans seven decades.
And she doesn't appear to be slowing down with age - on Monday night (16Jan12) bosses at U.S. network NBC paid tribute to the legend's career by airing a star-studded TV special, which featured Hugh Jackman and Carol Burnett, among others, paying tribute to the birthday girl - and she is just about to premiere a new senior citizen hidden camera show, titled Off Their Rockers.
Because the funnywoman has already celebrated her birthday with her best celebrity pals, White tells WENN she plans on spending the day working on crossword puzzles and hanging out with her longtime companion - a Golden Retriever named Pontiac.
And in honour of the spunky star's landmark birthday, we've compiled 10 fascinating facts about the beloved actress to mark the occasion. Happy Birthday, Betty White!
- The actress was born in Illinois during America's Great Depression but her parents moved the family to Los Angeles when she was just two years old.
- She attended the Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills, California - the same middle school as Angelina Jolie, Nicolas Cage and Lenny Kravitz.
- Unlike a number of celebrities, the actress never changed her name before entering the entertainment industry. She was born Betty - not Elizabeth - because her parents didn't want her to be bogged down by nick names.
- White has been married three times - briefly to Army Air Corps pilot Dick Barker in 1945, Hollywood agent Lane Bryant from 1947 to 1949 and TV host Allen Ludden, from 1963 until his death in 1981.
- She has won a total of seven Emmy Awards throughout the course of her career - her first was a 1975 Best Actress honour for her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and her most recent was in 2010, for Outstanding Guest Actress on A Comedy Series for her hosting turn on U.S. sketch show Saturday Night Live.
- White has been a life-long animal advocate. She received the American Veterinary Medical Association's Humane Award in 1987 for her charitable work, and the Los Angeles Zoo recognised the comedian with a bronze plaque near the Gorilla Exhibit in 2006, when she was officially named the tourist attraction's Ambassador to the Animals.
- She turned down the chance to play Helen Hunt's mum in the 1997 film As Good As It Gets because she objected to a scene in which Jack Nicholson's character pushes a dog down a trash chute.
- She has already cemented her place in television and movie history - White was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995 and she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to her late husband Ludden's in 1998.
- White is the last surviving member of the cast of hit TV show The Golden Girls, which premiered in America in 1985. Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur passed away in 2009, and Rue McClanahan followed in 2010. Industry insiders feared White might succumb last year (11) after a mysterious annual pattern of co-star deaths was discovered.
- She is also a highly-successful author - White has written a total of six books. Her last one, If you Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't), is currently a New York Times Bestseller.