Ultimately, the film has the same problem that Kerouac did: it is out of this notion of history as “fashion and manners” that redemption and revolution are rendered separate, even contentious pursuits. In the novel, Dean is redeemed precisely because of his misery. Out of all those who have suffered from his sins, it is Dean who has suffered the most. For the film, however, it is precisely because of history that such an ending should not go without certain gestures toward the present – today, Dean’s brand of individualist anti-authoritarianism seems more akin to Ayn Rand’s “morality of self-interest,” than to any fellow Beats. In its representation of pre-revolutionary conditions, the film casts onto the Beat mythology a foreclosure of the counterculture: in Dean, the Neoliberal “post-1960s” is already, latently achieved.
- “The Roads Not Taken,” by Madeline Lane-McKinely