The cast of On The Road at the photocall in Cannes

On The Road Comes To Cannes: Divides Critics, But Isn’t That Just So Kerouac?

Yesterday it was Pitt and Liotta. But today, young Hollywood came to the Cannes Film Festival.

Trailing a wave of high expectations, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Riley,Viggo Mortensen and Garrett Hedlund are in town for the premiere of On The Road –and a little face-time with the press.

Adapted from Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical, road-trip-cum-voyage-of-discovery novel, this long-awaited film is also competing at the festival for the coveted Palme d’Or.

The cast were all smiles at the photo call this morning, and they had good reason. At the film’s screening earlier, literally thousands of journalists and film writers queued for a seat in the Lumiere cinema.

The sheer speed of Twitter meant reactions came online quickly. Some loved it, some didn’t – and some couldn’t decide one way or the other.

Jake Coyle at the Associated Presstweeted “On the Road, a beautifully crafted, largely fine film that, alas, nevertheless lacks the fire”. Time’s Richard Corliss decided “the movie lacks the novel’s exuberant syncopation — it misses the beat as well as the Beat. Some day someone may make a movie worthy of On the Road, but Salles wasn’t the one to try.”

Damon Wise from Empire Onlinedescribed it as “about as good as it could be; lovely to look at but episodic and verbose”, while Hitfix’s Guy Lodge said, “To state the obvious, On the Road is clearly not unfilmable. Sam Riley might be, though.” The Independent declared Stewart’s scenes were “electric” but dismissed the film as little more than “cliche”.

GQ’s Logan Hill wrote, “Walter Salles’ episodic ramble On the Road never catches fire. Almost feels like a melancholy critique of the novel. Pretty, though …”. The Guardian’s Xan Brooks called the film a “stylish, tiresome loop of pretty faces [and] chambray romanticism. But oh, Viggo Mortensen is terrific.”

Filmstagewrote, “It’s fun to wander and live and be merry and then sad and profound and high. Not as fun to watch unfortunately.” Brad Brevet reviewed it as “Well made but otherwise empty”, but singled out Hedlund’s performance as “the best I’ve seen him” and Kristen Stewart’s “brave performance in what comes across as her bold journey beyond the dull and lifeless character she portrays in the Twilight movie.”

Total Film, said “On The Road was decent, but like the material, episodic with a hard to care for lead. Kristin Stewart on mold breaking form.” Indiewire gave it a mixed reception, praising the “incredible” work of the film’s cinematographer, Eric Gautier, while bemoaning that “no matter how beautiful the scenery flickering by through the window, eventually you just want to get out of the goddamn car.”

But just as Kerouac’s book split critics at the time – notably Truman Capote when he dismissed Kerouac’s opus saying, “That’s not writing, it’s typing” – a film like On The Road, so steeped in the context of its time and necessarily freeform, was always going to be a matter of personal taste.

Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley riding cars in On The Road
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