Heads Up: On the Road

Paradise lost? How time has dulled the impact of Jack Kerouac's classic

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A new film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's 1951 Beat novel, On the Road.

Elevator pitch Can you Beat it? Salles finally creates Paradise on the silver screen.

Prime movers Directing is Walter Salles, best known for another road movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, whose screenwriter, Jose Rivera, he's reunited with here.

The stars Plenty. Brit actor Sam Riley (Control, Brighton Rock) is our narrator, Sal Paradise, while Garrett Hedlund (Tron, Country Strong) plays Dean Moriarty, whose girlfriends include Kristen (Twilight) Stewart and Kirsten Dunst. And have fun star-spotting, in smaller roles, Amy Adams, Elizabeth Moss, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi and Tom Sturridge.

The early buzz When it premiered at Cannes, reviews were mixed. The New York Times wrote that Salles "doesn't invest On the Road with the wildness it needs for its visual style, narrative approach and leads. This lack of wildness – the absence of danger, uncertainty or a deep feeling for the mad ones – especially hurts Dean." Variety felt that although it was "evocatively lensed, skillfully made and duly attentive to the mercurial qualities of its daunting source material" the film "feels overly calculated in its bid for spontaneity, attesting to the difficulty and perhaps futility of trying to reproduce Kerouac's literary lightning onscreen." In The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy had similar concerns but suggested, "while the film's dramatic impact is variable, visually and aurally it is a constant pleasure".

Insider knowledge The actors were sent on a "beatnik boot camp" for four weeks, where they immersed themselves in the lives, works and sounds of the Beat Generation.

It's great that… the movie finally got made – the rights were bought by Francis Ford Coppola back in 1979, but the project failed to get into gear.

It's a shame that… maybe in that lengthy gestation, its cinematic moment passed; many reviewers complained that capturing the fresh teen spirit of Kerouac's original on celluloid was too tricky a task, his trailblazing characters now coming across like over-earnest gap-yah kids.

Hit potential It's been long awaited, while recent gossipy interest in K-Stew is likely to help too – but the book's fans may be divided, or just avoid it altogether.

The details On the Road is released on 12 October.