December 2, 2023

On the Road Film: Dean’s Story

Two weeks ago, they finally released the long awaited trailer for Coppola’s adaptation of Kerouac’s On the Road directed by Walter Salles. I don’t know if I am the only one to have noticed but the trailer revolves very much around Dean Moriarty. This makes sense as he is undoubtably one of the most important characters in the book alongside Sal; the narrative showcasing their friendship over four years. It’s not a lie to say that Dean’s presence is what has thrived most in the market, more so than Jack Kerouac himself. However, there is much more to the book than this philosophical fast-talking madman, a destructive force who travels through America like a tornado without an ounce of responsibility to his name.

When I read the book, I created such a perfervid connection with Sal, that on hearing a couple of years back of their attempt to adapt it for cinema, I only wished for one thing. I wished that the translation of Kerouac’s words into film would not lose their true essence. It isn’t a narrative that should be made into something glamorous and can’t be devoted to just one person. Kerouac said himself that his writing was about teaching and ultimately, it is a guide on how to live your life and grow up. Dean is the life of the party; always rushing away from the mess he makes in comparison to Sal, who remains solemn, watchful and dedicated to teaching and learning; in a bid to figure out life from the mess that has been handed to him.Whilst Dean’s characteristics may transfer better for a cinema audience, without emphasis on Sal, On the Road loses it’s magic. The same magic I presume that impassioned Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Salles into adapting this book.

I may be biased because of my preference to Sal over Dean but I really do wish the trailer chooses to centre on Dean as a way of marketing the film and not because he is the film’s central narrative. On the Road goes beyond being about a party animal who has lost control like the trailer makes out.

Watch the trailer here and see what you think.


1 Comment on On the Road Film: Dean’s Story

  1. I agree Holly. I loved OTR and the essence of what made it so powerful was the subtle growth of Sal thrown into relief by the actions of Dean. Dean’s life as seen through Sal’s. I also felt very attached to Sal and his moments of poetic philosophy made me fall in love with the book. I never felt that way about the intriguing Dean, because it is never quite his story.

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