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Hedlund Owns The Road

Michael C. here.  Walter Salles’s big-screen adaptation of Kerouac’s On the Road is set for limited release December 21, but I fear that if people aren't buzzing about this one before Christmas then there's a real risk that one of the year’s best performances will be lost amid talk of Hobbits and show tunes sung live on set. So to prevent that happening I’m going to get the ball rolling right now: Garrett Hedlund deserves to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor.


Sam Riley may be the lead as Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise, but the character is something of a cipher, passive and observant and taking notes the whole time. As Dean Moriarty, based on beat generation figure Neal Cassady, Hedlund has the star part. He drives the action. He is the guy who everyone talks about when he’s off-screen and is the unquestioned center of attention when on-screen. It's a daunting role. Hedlund needs to make Moriarty a solipsistic, libido-driven egomaniac that makes a wreck of all his relationships while at the same time have him be so irresistibly brilliant and charming that we believe it when all the other characters are attracted to him despite this behavior. It’s not for nothing that Kerouac originally wanted Marlon Brando for the role. 

Hedlund delivers big on all these counts and makes it all seem effortless. In one electric scene he lets fly with an impromptu monologue about a party that evolved into a bizarre orgy, and you can feel the whole story skipping right off the surface of Dean's Benzedrine-addled mind. 

Any film of On the Road is going to rise or fall based on the character of Dean. The character embodies all the novels romantic deals about the excitement of the open highway as well as the story's tragic grace notes when the road trip ends. That this adaptation works as well as it does suggests that voters need to find room among all the beloved veterans for one of 2012's breakout stars. 

The Best Supporting Actor Race

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Reader Comments (11)

Couldn't agree more. I thought the movie was only okay, but Gedlund was AMAZING.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

agree! agree! agree!

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfrench girl

I think your top 5 will last till january,maybe crowe or mcconaughey but doubtful.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

glad he's collecting other fans. Really startling performance and especially the scene you cite. I can't wait to use it for a Monologue Monday someday

November 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R


November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I've been keeping an eye on him ever since his best-in-show perf in Friday Night Lights. He never got any palpable buzz off of that film, and then followed it with a somewhat bland turn in Tron Legacy, but here's hoping his career takes off eventually. It's all about the projects you pick, and unfortunately after the one-two punch of FNL and Four Brothers he started picking critical flop after critical flop (and yes, On the Road is a critical flop).

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthatone

YES!!!!!! Superb acting!!!!! Magnetic!!! Brilliant!!! He was a revelation!!

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Hedlund was simply extraordinary in On the Road. Magnetic, electrifying and subtle all at once. No wonder they're comparing him to Brando, the guy Kerouac wanted for the role. He definitely deserves a nomination for the film and even win the award, why not?

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersonia

I agree Hedlund should be in the mix, great performance. Someone else who could sneak in is Jim Broadbent. Recently watched 'Marigold Hotel' again on a long flight home and increasingly feel that it's going to play well with the Academy and ultimately will be the film the British members will back. While I think Smith (overrated in this particular role, Penelope Wilton is definitely best-in-show here) and Dench have better chances, Broadbent should at least be in your third tier, perhaps even your second.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGian

It's definitely one of the better male performances of the year but it's also one of those performances which has me up in the air as to being supporting or lead. My gut-reaction feels he's more lead but it's like Kidman in "The Hours" or Bale in "The Fighter" where it could go either way.

He is MVP for me, but I think the acting is generally the one thing truly on point in the film - and Riley with slivers of nothing to do acquits himself of the cipher-like character he's forced to play.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Just want to let "thatone" know that On the Road is not a critical flop. The first cut, seen at Cannes, and 20 minutes longer, was a critical flop. But the one coming out in theatres in December, and seen in Toronto, is leaner, meaner and more emotionally resonant -- and already a critical success with film critics in England. (See The New Statesman review, for example.)

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereachday

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