On the Road (Blu-ray)

October 3, 2013 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

On the road :To Nowhere is a more appropriate title for this road picture that wanders aimlessly from scene to scene without much purpose. The film stars Sam Riley as Sal Paradise. He meets Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and his young wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart). They quickly become friends and their journey together begins. Sal is a writer and is dealing with not only writer’s block, but the recent death of his father. He figures the trip will help clear his head and possibly give him some strong writing material. The trio of friends visit jazz clubs, smoke marijuana together and engage in sexual activities and visit old colleagues. Their journey across the country leads them to several people who impact their lives. The film is all over the map (no pun intended) with various characters coming and going. There isn’t a strong focus in the film either. It’s hard to get behind a single characters when we’re constantly jerked around various story-lines. It is clear earlyon that Sal admires Dean. He is much more of a free spirit than Sal. Based on the novel (of the same name) by Jack Kerouac, something gets lost in translation here. The characters need more time to develop than what we get here. The film’s rushed and sluggish at the same time. I praise the cinematography and attention to recreating the late 1940’s, but the story is strongly lacking. It keeps us at a distance and I never cared about the outcome of the characters or their various journeys.

I will say this, Director Walter Salles has certainly assembled a fine cast here. In addition to the three leads, we get appearances from Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams and Steve Buscemi. They all do fine work here despite not having very much screen time. The usually wooden Kristen Stewart even does nice work here as well. She doesn’t have a large role either, but she displays more range than some of her earlier roles. I’m surprised to learn that this story had been in development for several decades before finally getting made. At one point Marlon Brando was to star. The results might have been better than what we have here. Brando certainly has a stronger screen presence than Sam Riley. He does an OK job here, but nothing is terribly great about his performance. I recall reading much about the nude scene with Stewart, Hedlund and Riley all in the front seat of a car. There was plenty of buzz surrounding this scene, but it hardly registers in the film. At the end of the day, I can’t find much to love about On the road. The lack of direction and a strong leading character really hurt it. For those familiar with the novel or simply curious about the film then a rental would be a safer bet. I can’t recommend a blind buy.

Video: How’s it look?

I didn’t care for the film, but the transfer (2.40:1, AVC encoded) is nice. The colors are sharp and natural looking. The many road scenes show strong detail, not just in background shots, but alsoon the actors. Stubble and sweat show up on several faces during many scenes. The film does have a bit of a faded look at times, but this could be intentional so I don’t consider that a flaw. We see some winter scenes with snow on the ground and clarity is very strong with those scenes as well. There is a bit of grain in some of the day scenes, but it never became a big distraction. Overall, this transfer should please fans of the film.

Audio: How’s it sound?

A DTS HD 5.1 track is included here and is a solid track. The track makes good use of the many scenes involving jazz music. There are several scenes in night clubs and background noise gets a lot of mileage there. I could hear glass shattering in the background and other nice details. The channels get good usage and really involve us in the film. Detail comes across in several scenes. Vocals were always easy to understand and show strong clarity in all the scenes. I could notice the sound of the classic cars in several scenes as well, the exhaust and engine noise really come through.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The disc comes up short in terms of special features. All we get is a trailer and some deleted scenes.

  • Deleted Scenes (7:48) – Don’t expect anything terribly great here. Most were wisely deleted.
  • Trailer (2:29) – We get the film’s trailer here. I always enjoy having this as an option.

Disc Scores