Went to see On The Road last night, drawn by the promise of cheap movie night and the chance to see a couple of cuties make mincemeat of the Beats. I prefer to confront my art unarmed and without foreknowledge, just to give the semblance of a fair fight, though I went with a healthy dose of skepticism that much could be made from the long, rambling drama of Kerouac's book, which I read in my teens. I'm not much of a Beat fan, though I'm somewhat fascinated by all those artsy intellectuals, many of them queer, trying to live their lives tough. Still, I hadn't read any reviews, so went without expecting much, certainly not to be mesmerized. What a thrill then to see the era brought so richly to life (at least as much as it can for someone like me who wasn't around in the 'forties) and the characters evoked so convincingly. The casting is magical all around. Garett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty (Kerouac's buddy Neal Cassady in real life), the bisexual rebel with Jack Nicholson's voice and young Marlon Brando's sex appeal, draws focus almost effortlessly whenever he's on screen. Kirsten Dunst as Moriarty's wife Camille (and Hedlund's real-life amour) fares equally well. Either I missed it at the beginning or it wasn't there, but when I finally caught the director's name at the end, I understood why the film was so rivetting. Brazilian Walter Salles first came to world attention in 1998 with the haunting Central Station. He later drew from Che Guevara's memoirs (as undramatic as Kerouac's book) and spun them into The Motorcycle Diaries. This is one not to be missed, unless your idea of a great film is, oh, I don't know … Titanic?

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