The Grapes Of Wrath (1940) * Top Picks * * Americana Classic *
Starring: Henry Fonda (The Lady Eve; Midway), Jane Darwell (The Ox-Bow Incident; My Darling Clementine)
Directed By: John Ford (Stagecoach; Rio Grande)
Overview: This adaptation of Steinbeck's novel deals with farmers run off their land during the drought of the Great Depression. They head off to California to become migrant workers, finding life there even more difficult.
Acting: There's a real honest approach to this one. Poor people with real emotions, sometimes rage, but usually just 'plain folk' attitudes. It's no wonder this won 2 Academy Awards. The roles of these people! Some actors, like Dustin Hoffman, are made for film. Some films are made for actors, like Grapes Of Wrath.
Cinematography: The dusty wind blowing silt across the plain, the orange groves just across the river, that car bogged down with tents and people, this film focuses on the Depression and the hope of their destination. The shantytowns are meticulously detailed, there's ever the odd artsy shot with metaphor in there and everything.
Script: "Them Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain't human. Human being wouldn't live the way they do. Human being couldn't stand to be so miserable."
It's Steinbeck. If you haven't read him (Of Mice and Men; East Of Eden), this is a guy who writes about the hell that is farming, the once-good past that is now lost, the big evil machine that tractors everyone out off their land, pretty happy topics. His writing is solid. This movie's just ripe full of quotes. He's classic.
Plot: What a hell of a story. It's depressing and bleak, but the people we follow have a good keel on them, and they have just enough brains to get themselves out of the trouble they put themselves into. So honest that it was banned in certain states because it condemned the treatment of migrant workers... This is a lesson teacher of wisdom as well as historical context.
Mood: There's some genuinely redeeming moments in this. Plans of bad men foiled by good, hope springing eternal, that sort of stuff, so for you people who like something that isn't soul-crushing, this is close but nicely so. A great character study of several people and without some frou-frou ending, this is damn good Steinbeck.
Overall Rating: 90% (Sweet Bitter Fruit)
Aftertaste: I've read Steinbeck and there's just something about him that really seems to translate really well to film, which made me go out of my way and decide to see three different versions of Of Mice and Men, and it looks like some pretty good homework.
Jesus Christ do I ever love movies, I can't STOP! Mmm! It tastes so GOOD!