The celebrated novel arrives onscreen to buzzy talk of dual handjobs and whispered wonderings of "Why?" The film is an overexposed snapshot of an era: a pre-Boomer burst of sex, drugs, and be-bop, chronicled by young wannabe writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and exemplified by his on-again, off-again travel buddy Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund). Their one noble purpose, narrates Sal, is to move — though it often seems that nobility has very little to do with it. Dean uses the newly woven Interstate highway system to bed-hop his way across the country, leaving angry women (and crying babies) in his wake. He's less a character than a compulsion. Sal, meanwhile, seems content to watch and take notes. Lots of actors show up and have fun, notably Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams as prototypical homeschooling parents and Kristen Stewart as a white-trash honey who's up for anything, at least until the biological clock kicks in. (2012) — Matthew Lickona
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