On the Road- Private screening with Francis Coppola

A little over a week ago I was invited to George Lucas’ stunning Skywalker Ranch for a private screening of On the Road.  The “screening room” was perhaps the best movie theater that I have ever experienced, not because it was ostentatiously decorated, but because of the quality of the sound, the seats and the screen. Arash, my friend and daytime Emmy award-winning producer of Cyberchase, was kind enough to let me tag along under his wife’s name.

There was wine, there was cheese, and there was Francis Ford Coppola – appropriately jolly and bearded for the christmas tree we’d passed in the lobby. At some point Arash actually pointed out that I had eaten a piece of cheese next to my good old friend Francis. Lead actor Garrett Hedlund, supporting actress Kristen Stewart, and director Walter Salles were also there, and as grand and fun as the mingling was, sadly, the film was not the highlight I’d anticipated.

It was shot beautifully and that alone could be enough to keep some audiences engaged, but, the main problem that I had with it was that the story felt very looooooong. Naturally, I want to blame Kristen Stewart. Because even though she was generous enough to share her breasts with the audience, listening to her think during the Q & A was, much like her performance, painful. But while Stewart is an easy to hate princox, the truth is she was only onscreen for a third of the film so she cannot take full responsibility for the snorer.

The movie was underwhelming for a number of reasons and I think Arash nailed it when he said that for him, it didn’t feel like the film was alive, rather we remained at arm’s length, spectators from afar. This is by definition what we do when we watch movies, but, in comparison to the depths we explore with a book like On the Road, it was disappointing to get a flat, romanticized screen-version of 1950′s Americana. So, what happened Walter? The director was charming and thoughtful afterwards, but the film seemed to clearly recycle some of the cinematic tricks from The Motorcycle Diaries, a movie that by contrast, feels engaging, inspirational and innovative. Three words that no doubt fit Kerouac’s classic novel: Engaging (riotously so), inspirational (the manifesto for a generation) and innovative (in all ways cultural and literary). But three words that have no place with the current iteration.

I don’t know what my fellow movie lovers are saying out there, but come December 21st you can all go to your local theater and check the movie out for yourselves. I hope you tell me your thoughts, specially if you think I completely missed it and should refrain from ever writing on this blog again. Let me hear it! My only requirement: be articulate.

Until then, I will give this film, which at an hour and a half felt more like a three hour endeavor, two (out of five) stars.

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