Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 265 - The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) directed by John Ford

Harrison Ford once famously said to George Lucas when reading the script of Star Wars, "This looks nice on paper, but you can't say this shit out loud." And this is the hardest part of adapting a book into a movie. Some things sound good when you read it, but nobody talks like that in real life. One of my minor complaints of The Grapes of Wrath is the unnatural dialogue that makes it feel like a book rather than a movie. This is something that I've noticed in a lot of older films, a lot of monologues and preachy moments to get points across rather than letting the dialogue and story flow naturally.

For instance, Tom Joad's conversation with his mother before he leaves is filled with eloquent lines not befitting a simple Okie. He closes with this line: "I'll be around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too." Just because you say the lines with an accent, it doesn't make it any more believable. Does he realize he's saying his last words to his dear mother and not making a rally speech?

The Grapes of Wrath is a sweeping melodrama about the hardships of the Great Depression, the plight of the little man, and union organizing. I think it gets caught up too much in its message rather than trying to tell a story and if you're not up for getting preached to, it can grow a little tiring. However I cannot deny this is a well put together film and a faithful adaptation of one of the most heralded novels of all time. I could understand why this is considered a great and important film but I just couldn't connect with it. I think the expression is "falling on deaf ears." One of the tests I use to determine the greatness of a movie is to see how I feel immediately after it is over and to be honest, I didn't feel anything other than I just finished a movie and now I have to write about it. I know it seems like I'm hating on the film, but I'm really not. I'm glad I watched it and already admitted that it is a solid film, but that's where it stops.

Grade: B

1 comment:

  1. You are crazy homeboy.

    I can't go with you on this one.

    This is an all-time classic. A Top Ten film of the 1940s, which may be the best film decade ever.

    I love everything about it. Ford's performance, the dark overtones, the gritty adaptation that makes the point of the book, but is not so depressing that you I still want to watch it again over and over (unlike, say, the undeniable great but quease-inducing Requiem).

    Your complaints that the movie falls on deaf ears falls on my deaf ears! Ha!

    Maybe you were in a bad mood when you watched this? Should try it again sometime...

    Also, I query: What did you expect to see going into this one?!?