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USA 1992
Directed by
Gary Sinise
115 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Of Mice And Men (1992)

Given that Lewis Milestone’s 1939 film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel was more than satisfactory and he doesn’t really add anything to it but stays similarly close to the original text (although Milestone’s version also took into account a stage version) it is difficult to see what attracted well-known actor Gary Sinise to re-doing this story of a couple of unfortunate itinerant Depression era farm workers, George Milton (Sinise) and Lennie Small (John Malkovich), whose dream of independence and "a place of their own"  turns to ashes. The good news is that whilst there are gains and losses Sinise has done a fine job.  

On the upside, veteran screenwriter Horton Foote (he won an Oscar for Tender Mercies, 1982) delivers a lean adaptation, the characters have lost the somewhat caricatural lumpishness which marks the 1939 version and Sinise makes good use of modern film-making technology to give the story a more naturalistic, less stage-bound setting.  John Malkovich brings a lot more to Lennie than did Lon Chaney Jr (although some may think, a little too much) and Sinise, who regularly plays screen villains gives a winning turn as Lennie’s much put-upon minder, their relationship having a good deal more co-dependent affection than in the Milestone version.  Comparatively speaking too, Sherilyn Fenn, for me at least, is more effective as Curley’s tease of a wife than was Betty Field and the final scene between her and Lennie is much better handled.  Ray Walston also deserve an honourable mention as Candy, the old-timer who buys into their dream.

The only aspect of Sinise’s version that I am not so sure about is that he gives the rural setting an Arcadian glow that is at odds with the Depression-era harshness and desperation which underpins Steinbeck's story of cruel fate. Then again I much preferred Mark Isham’s typically restrained score to that of Aaron Copland in the Milestone version.

In the final analysis, 1939 or 1992, it’s a matter of taste.

Available from: Viavision

 

 

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