.On the Road is actually pretty successful. It's an easier movie to deal with than the book is to put up with at my age, let's put it that way. It keeps the doped-up speed-word philosophizing to the bare minimum (Tom Sturridge is the worst offender of this as the the Ginsberg-ish character of Carlo Marx, but he's adorable and haunted enough to get away with an awful lot of it) and instead focuses on the blush of enthusiastic youth... as Cosmo Kramer might have said, it's a story about love, deception, greed, lust and unbridled enthusiasm.
Lust being key - this is a damn sexy movie. We've all had a character like Dean Moriarty in our lives - that ball of lightning in the center of the room we're all drawn towards even while we know it's gonna burn, but man, the warmth when you can get close enough is almost worth it - and Garrett Hedlund is terrifically good at capturing that essence. You can understand why everybody's throwing themselves at him - it's not just the body (which is fine, don't get me wrong) or the matinee looks. Indeed he tempers that lovely face of his with a grin that can switch from devilishly charming to swollen and desperate, and that voice that can go from shake-you-to-your-boots baritone to hoarse and petulant, in a heartbeat. But it's the swagger - he is built for seduction, and whatever it takes to con somebody in to taking him in and showing him a good time, he's gonna give his all. While taking more, of course.
Inevitably with these things, it's wheel-spinning - there's not really a story per se, just a bunch of debauchery in different locations with long stretches of asphalt in between. It's as if Dean and Sal tie their big new bright friendship to the back of their big new bright sedan, and we watch the pavement take this full shiny thing and grind it down to a nub. But man, there's sparks!