A film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road has been in the works for so long, passing through myriad failed attempts with stars like Brad Pitt and Ethan Hawke ever since Francis Ford Coppola first optioned it in 1979, that just getting a trailer out there is its own minor triumph. Later, of course, will come the part where everyone decides whether it was all worth it, whether Motorcycle Diaries director Walter Salles managed to stuff Kerouac’s rambling prose into the confines of a movie, and whether fans of the book can accept its being imprisoned like that, man. After all, Kerouac himself once said that the only way to do it would be sticking a camera on the dashboard, then filming him and Marlon Brando talking about America all night—hoping to avoid it being reduced to a story of sex, drugs, and jazz, with stop-offs for romantic melodrama.
Like the studios, Salles obviously didn’t buy into that. There's plenty of sex, drugs, jazz, and romantic melodrama in this trailer, just as it’s filled with plenty of interesting people to look at and listen to besides Sal and Dean. The sprawling cast includes supporting turns from Viggo Mortensen (doing his best Burroughs, by which we mean shooting things), Terence Howard, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Kirsten Dunst, and Elisabeth Moss, though the preview focuses mostly on the core trio of Garret Hedlund’s Dean Moriarty, Sam Riley’s Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise, and Kristen Stewart as Dean’s teen bride Marylou. Stewart’s prominence in this trailer—despite her character flitting in and out of the actual story— suggests she’s been pegged as the key to On The Road’s marketing campaign, perhaps to appeal to a new generation of disenfranchised, sour-faced youth. And yes, Kerouac may not have dug it—but then, Kerouac ain’t the one buying the tickets.