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Of Mice and Men

A movie directed by Gary Sinise

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Tell Me About The Rabbits ....

  • May 29, 2008
Rating:
+5
Pros: Still Relevant, Excellent Acting, Beautiful Cinematography,

Cons: A hard core dose of reality and choices.

The Bottom Line: This is, personally speaking, the best adaptation of the book that I have ever seen. I have seen a lot of them too.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

This is perhaps one of the finest adaptations I've ever had the pleasure of watching. As a High School Teacher I find that this adaptation is very appealing to my students, who also happen to love the novella. The original story is definitely one of Steinbeck's finest, thus making a cinematic adaptation (usually notorious for their lack of credibility when forced to adapt a script and cram a book into a 2 hour space) a major undertaking. Not only does this movie stay true to the plot, and text in general, but the acting is superlative to say the least.

Fans of Gary Sinise, (CSI New York), will be pleasantly surprised by the depth of character he is capable of portraying. John Malkovich, always a master of playing quirky characters, portrays the complex character of Lennie with genuine care. It is fair to say that Malkovich "crafted" the character of Lennie from the original text w/out over doing the mentally challenged part (as I've seen in live plays) or the undulating stream of turmoil and anger that boils deep under Lennie's surface.(Yes I've seen that overdone as well.)

SIGNIFICANCE

Whether one cares to view The Great Depression as still significant and relevant in today's world (I for one find it exceptionally significant, and highly relevant) isn't really the big issue I've seen made of it by some misdirected productions of this play/novella/movie. The fact of the matter is that it adresses so many relevant issues ,(the economy, the hopes and dreams of any and all humans, the sometimes harsh world of reality, class, race, euthanasia,---I really could go on and on here--but I think you get the picture {no pun intended}), that it is required reading (the novella) and viewing (this version) in my class room. If you are a teacher of either Social Studies or Language Arts, this movie is a brilliant cross- curricular piece to work with. If you are just a regular old Joe, this movie is bound to give you a good jolt of "the real world" as viewed through the eyes of two depression era guys with a dream, as well as several significant side characters.

SUMMARY

I really don't want to get too much into the plot, as this is already considered an American Classic. Basically, the story opens with two guys running away from a small town where they got into trouble because Lennie, (Malkovich), the mentally challenged character really likes to touch soft things. The town they are leaving has sent a posse out to round them up because Lennie saw a well endowed woman wearing a soft dress, and of course.....Well she cried "Rape" and on they went. George, (Sinise), soon reveals to us that this tends to be a recurring pattern as he references the dead mouse Lennie likes to keep in his pocket. The mice don't start that way, but they are soft, and Lennie, unaware of his own strength "pets them too hard." This too will become a recurring theme.

Like 25% of America back then, George and Lennie are looking for work. They are on their way across California (this is Steinbeck afterall) looking for work. They have a dream to buy a little farm where they, "can settle down and not be bothered by anyone anymore." One of Lenny's jobs at their dream farm will be to tend the rabbits. As rabbits are incredibly soft creatures, and definitely larger than mice, Lennie is thrilled by this prospect.

Throughout the story/movie/play Lennie will ask George to repeat the dream aloud to him with the catch phrase "Tell me about the rabbits George." Not only does Malkovich repeat the phrase over and again w/out over-cooking the mentally challenged part, but his eyes glaze over in dream like state, and he relaxes back w/his posture so artfully that we too can see the rabbits in Lennie's mind." Sinise adds so much depth to George's part. Rather than the over kill of consternation I've seen many an actor portray at having to repeat the story over and again, we catch the complexity of this dream and the depth of George's emotions. Certainly he repeats the story to Malkovich in a semi-peeved, fashion at times, but he also shows compassion and care, and on occassion even a nurturing side when the story is told at times to calm Lennie down.

They end up at a ranch where they "buck barley" for a living. As Lennie has the strength of any two of the other work hands, he proves himself a very valuable worker by out stacking 100 lb sack after 100 lb stack. One of the other work hands, Candy, has a dog whom he has owned for many years. The dog is dying of old age, and the other hands convince him to shoot the dog and "Put him out of his misery. It's really the kindest thing to do." The head stable hand (Jerk Line Skunner) Slim--the insightful stoic of the group, is well played by John Terry, who puts the right amounts of Stoicism together with honesty, and best intentions to give credibility to a more complex character who's advice to Candy proves quite prescient, and offers some seriously subtle foreshadowing and spicy symbolism.

When the rancher's son "Curley", an arrogant, no account, washed up, wanna be boxer, comes in and starts a fight w/Lennie, he gets his hand "Crushed" by Lennie who would have easily killed the little schmuck had not George and the others stepped in. Casey Siemaszko plays a great little bad guy in this part. He puts together the correct amount of frustration with the right amounts of arrogance in order to make him a believeable character. Believe me, many of us know a Curley or two whether in social circles or working circles (he's the primo example of "The Assistant Manager no one likes to work for"), and Siemaszko does a fine job of portraying this character and making him credible. I've seen too many a bad actor ham up "The Bad Guy" image and destroy the subtlety necessary as a foil for the role of Curley's Wife.

After Candy's dog has been put down, Slim promises him a puppy from his female dog who is expecting. Upon hearing this Lennie begs George to get him a puppy from Slim. Well despite the fact that Lennie tries to be careful with the little dog, he eventually "pets it too hard" and that's the end of that. This is important as it builds even more foreshadowing into the plot. Let's just say that "Curley's Wife", and believe it or not that is how the role is portrayed on the credits, despite a well acted part by Sherrilynn Fenn, gets her curiosity piqued by Curley's mangled hand. She refuses to beleive the excuse that it got "caught in a machine" and can't wait to find the guy that finally put the little putz in his place. Despite George's warnings to Lennie to stay away from her, she eventually corners Lennie one day. Let's just say that she has very soft hair and Lennie sure does pet things a little too hard. The rest I need to leave up to you.

OVERALL

This film adaptation is simply marvelous. The camera work is wonderful. The scenery is great too. I'm not sure I buy into it happening in California with the wide open prairie look that is often achieved, but the colours and camera angles are well thought out. The costumes, and props are all authentic looking, and to me that's important. I have trouble watching movies where they miss the little things. The automobiles, farm machinery, equipment are all from the proper time frame, and help give this story a good dose of reality. Last but not least--the acting is superb. Even the side character of "Crooks" the old black stable hand, is well portrayed by Joe Morton. This is usually just a throw away character in most productions who is used as a foil to show how quick Lennie is to rise to anger when scared or frustrated. Morton has the depth necessary that subtly reflects " Crooks'" equal amount of frustration based on prejudice. In his case it is skin color, v.s. Lennie's hard go against the mentally challenged. This is achieved w/out verboseness or pandering. Yes even the side characters in this production are deep, as is the story itself. This is a real 5 star production of a 5 Star story.




Recommended:
Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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About the reviewer
Bill Brott ()
Ranked #336
   I am a teacher, avid golfer, and semi-retired bassist. I grew up in North Dallas, moved to Boston where I went to college, and eventually came back to Texas. I found that the western side … more
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About this movie

Wiki

Horton Foote's adaptation of John Steinbeck's tragic tale about two migrant farmworkers in Depression-era California. Lennie, a sweet-natured, mentally-retarded man who doesn't realize his own crushing strength, and George, his companion and protector, befriend an aging farmhand on the ranch where they work as wheat harvesters. The three men resolve to buy a farm together and escape their down-trodden existence as itinerant laborers. But their dream is shattered when the child-like Lennie accidentally strangles the flirtatious wife of the ranch owner's son and George and Lennie are forced to run for their lives.
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Details

Cast: Gary Sinise
Director: Gary Sinise
Release Date: 1992
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (July 24, 2007)
Runtime: 1hr 50min
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