The Grapes of Wrath

Maybe I feel really meh about all movies lately. I don't really feel too excited about today's movie, either. It's another film where I can tell it's masterfully made, but it's not really something I find myself getting too worked up about. Today I watched The Grapes of Wrath, based on the Steinbeck novel of the same name. It was directed in 1940 by John Ford. He's a really talented director, you can tell he has a great eye and vision. I just didn't find myself getting as involved in the story as I probably should have been.

This will probably be a shorter post, since I don't really know what to say about movies where I feel so unenthusiastic. 
The movie, like the book, is about the Joad family, after they are forced off their land and decide to travel to California where they hope to find jobs and money. The main character of the film is Tom Joad, who has killed men before, for various reasons. He really is a great character, and does a good job of having a lot of meaningful changes over the course of the film. His preachy dialogue actually works some times, which is really good also.

Ebert says that Ford shot on location, which was great. I loved the scenes of the landscape - Ford has a great eye, and he does some really cool framing with his shots. I loved the abundance of dust flying around the whole movie, getting kicked up into tents by cars. I liked when we got to see how run down everything was, and really get a feel for the environment they were living in.

Overall, I don't know what it was about this movie that didn't really work for me. It felt long and the dialogue didn't work for most of the characters. It felt like they were just reading out of the book, and it didn't feel natural. It felt like too much of a production, I guess. There were some powerful moments. One that sticks out in my mind was when they arrive at one of the camps and start to cook. A bunch of starving children gather around and beg for food. Many of the men in the family lose their appetites, upset at having full plates of food to eat while the children watch. Ma Joad tells them to get tin cans, and they can have what's left, and they race around and scarf it up.

It just felt long, and the unnatural dialogue didn't help. It was hard for me to get involved in the story. I kept getting distracted by some of the lines, and then I would get pulled out of the plot. It felt really meandering and overly lengthy, even though it was only two hours long. My mom said that she watched this movie in high school and said it was "like four hours long", which is what it felt like to me, too.

I don't know! I hate it when I just don't really like a movie and I have no real reason why. I just didn't feel anything strongly for the film - I didn't dislike it, but I didn't like it, either. Ebert muses about the film in his essay, writing, "I wonder if American audiences will ever again be able to understand the original impact of this material, on the page and on the screen" (Great Movies II, 178). Maybe I just don't understand the content? That is a possibility. I feel bad that I can't offer an more concise argument about what was good and what was meh about the film, but I just felt so neutral about the whole thing.

Sorry for this meh post, but hey, it does a really good job of conveying how I feel about the movie. Also, for some reason Blogger is screwing up my tags, so I'll try to go back and fix them later tonight, but who knows.

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Grapes of Wrath
Buy it at Amazon

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The Gospel According to St. Matthew