Movie review: Side characters dominate leads in 'On the Road'

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Those who treat Jack Kerouac's quasi-autobiographical novel On the Road like Holy Scripture will be mostly delighted and slightly aggravated by director Walter Salles' movie adaptation — while the rest of us will have those feelings in reverse.

Mostly, Kerouac fans will enjoy how Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera (reteamed from "The Motorcycle Diaries") capture the disillusionment of its narrator and Kerouac stand-in, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), and the magnetic charm of his handsome and omnisexual pal Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) as the two wander around the country sharing drinks, drugs and sometimes Dean's teen wife, Marylou (Kristen Stewart).

Fans may note a few of the book's characters have been omitted, to keep the movie around two hours. Nonfans may find Riley's Sal an emotional zero, while Hedlund's Dean comes off as a selfish loser.

Also, both actors are left in the dust by a fine array of supporting players, including Viggo Mortensen (playing Old Bull Lee, Kerouac's version of William Burroughs), Amy Adams (as Bull's unstable wife), Kirsten Dunst and Elisabeth Moss. Even Stewart, exuding more passion than in all five "Twilight" movies, registers more fully than the preening leads.; —


'On the Road'

Opens Friday, March 29, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for strong sexual content, drug use and language; 123 minutes.