I was skeptical of this film from the trailer, because it looked like it was trying too hard, and of course the obvious black mark: Kristen Stewart's incredibly bad acting. But the first reviews out of Cannes seem to be proving me wrong. While most aren't exactly raves, there is a lot of praise for the performances, the visual treat of watching it, and some great moments in the uneasy script. As a contender, it could be one to look out for, at least for a modest box office hit if nothing else.
Eric Kohn from Indiewire, seems surprised like me, and even likes Stewart:
"But that owes more to ingredients that make the movie durable in individual moments than anything from the original book. The filmmaker's use of handheld camerawork, a jazzy soundtrack and all around committed performances help "On the Road" remain steadily watchable even as it meanders through a problematic middle section....Setting aside the novel's legacy, however, "On the Road" successfully showcases its main performances. Riley stands out in the Kerouac role, which has a certain soulfulness that echoes his breakthrough turn in Anton Corbijn's "Control." Hedlund is sufficiently overconfident as Moriarty, but Riley's true counterpoint in the story comes from Stewart's achievement as the giddy, pleasure-seeking Marylou, a credible performance made particularly noteworthy for her current fame in the "Twilight" franchise; frequently going nude, speaking up and dominating most of her scenes, she buries her movie stardom with this refreshingly non-commercial gig...In fact, the engine of "On the Road" largely stems from its lack of commerciality. It's usually a bad sign when any movie resorts to putting a writer in front of his typewriter as his prose takes the form of voiceover narration. But "On the Road" only does that near the very end, when it must inevitably arrive at the creation of the text. Before that point, Salles manages -- as he did with "The Motorcycle Diaries" -- to translate render most of the prose in experiential terms. In the process, it gets weighed down by the idealism of the work, but that's exactly what allows it to convey the sentiments of the original work."
Jeff Wells from Hollywood Elsewhere enjoyed it more than Kohn:
"Walter Salles' On the Road is masterful and rich, meditative and senseual and adventurous and lamenting all at once....I was stirred and delighted and never less than fully engrosses as I watcherd it, and it's great to finally run into a film that really hits it, and then hits it again and again. This is a big surprise. It's a certaintly contender for the Palme d'Or"
Todd McCarthy overall liked it, despite some of its dramatic flaws:
"While the film’s dramatic impact is variable, visually and aurally it is a constant pleasure. Eric Gautier’s cinematography is endlessly resourceful, making great use of superb and diverse locations (including New York, Canada, New Mexico, California, Louisiana, Mexico and Argentina). The cars, beginning with the central Hudson, are terrific, as are the décor, clothes and wide range of music. The film was researched to the limit, and it shows."