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Literary Screening Room

New 'On the Road' trailer [video]

August 31, 2012|by Carolyn Kellogg

The holiday weekend is crashing down upon us. It's time to swallow the last bit of summer before serious fall kicks in. OK, here in Los Angeles we don't really have to worry about fall, but it's the idea of the thing. Kids are in school and all that.

Gas in Los Angeles is averaging $4.16 a gallon, but will that stop us from jumping in our cars to get out of town one last whirlwind? I doubt it. I'm going.

To speed us along our way, here is a brand-new trailer for the movie version of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." The film, which screened at Sundance, has been recut for the Toronto Film Festival and then general release.

If the trailer is any indication, there's one significant change from what came before: It's telling the story contained in the book but no longer trying to frame it with shots of the book being written. And that may be a good thing.

The first trailer, which is no longer available, had a number of shots of an author hunched over a typewriter. An author who, like Kerouac, types on a scroll of paper. I can't be sure, but I think it was Sam Riley, who plays Sal Paradise -- it's his voice we hear reciting lines from the novel.

This caused some consternation, because Sal Paradise is a character in a book, and Jack Kerouac was a real person who wrote the book. Even if the two are connected, they are not the same, and portraying them as such seemed to minimize the ways in which "On the Road" is a novel. It's not a diary, it's a work of art.

Removing or downplaying the Sal-Paradise-is-Jack-Kerouac confusion is the good news. The bad news is Kristen Stewart.

Not that there's anything wrong with her! The poor girl has suffered far too much at the hands of gossip hounds. But the book isn't about a girl: the book is about a guy, Sal Paradise, and the guy he idolizes, Dean Moriarty. Sure, Marylou is Moriarty's girl, but she's not at the center of the narrative. And judging by the trailer, Stewart is pretty darn close to the center of the narrative.

I know, she's the biggest star, and her acting here looks phenomenal. Maybe they're just using her to sell the movie. Who's to argue with that?

Well, Kerouac might have. He was not a big fan of selling things. But that's a story for another day. Instead, to send us all on our Labor Day weekend way, here's the end of "On the Road."

"So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty."

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Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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