Of Mice and Men
I guess we all have gaps in our experience, and even a guy who has seen as many movies as I have is bound to have missed a few classics. Somehow I had never seen the original, nor had I read the book. I had seen a few clips of George and Lennie talking about the rabbits, but I didn’t know how it ended. Thus I was stunned when George put a bullet through Lennie’s head. I mean, I never expected that. Thinking about it, of course, it is plain that killing him is the best thing to do. He is a killer, however innocently, and he will either hang, be shot or hanged by a lynch mob or, even worse, be locked away in a padded cell. That would be a fate worse than death to the simple, gentle man.
It might be heresy to say it, but I think this remake is better than the original in every way. Gary Sinese (who directed from Horton Foote’s screenplay) is better than Burgess Meredith, and John Malkovich is way better than Lon Chaney, Jr. Which doesn’t mean I think the original is a bad film in any way, just that it suffers from weaknesses inherent in storytelling in 1939. This new version is much more realistic, feels more alive.
Again, Malkovich’s performance is stunning, damn near perfect. He is childlike, he feels much more real than any portrayal of a retarded man I have ever seen, including that vastly over-rated Forrest Gump. I mean, I love Tom Hanks, but what was that freaking accent all about? That sing-song delivery? Stick it in your box of chocolates, Forrest.