182: The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath (NR) - 1940 - Runtime: 128 minutes
Starring: Henry Fonda
Director: John Ford

Everytime I say "The Grapes of Wrath" in my head, I get the Facts of Life theme song stuck in my head but the words are replaced - "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the grapes of wrath! The grapes of wrath!" Not to belittle this movie (or the book, of which I have not read, unlike 99% of America who passed the ninth grade. What can I say? I lived in backwoods Ohio apparently where such liberal minded books could not be appreciated). So after watching the most depressing movie on the planet I thought I'd better take a bottle of Prozac if I wanted to get through this one. Surprisingly, despite the subject matter I was not sad but instead I was thoroughly entranced by this movie (I don't know if that's the right word, but what the hell!) and found myself rooting for the Joads to find happiness out west.

The movie follows the Joads' journey from Oklahoma to the promised land that is California. After the banks seize their land, the Joad family finds itself having to head west in search of a better life. Henry Fonda plays Tom, who just got out of prison for killing a man and joins his family on their journey. I don't know why I was so into this movie - maybe it's the general idea of the American spirit and all the cheese that comes with that phrase: picking yourself up by your bootstraps and all that nonsense. I found it an inspiring movie and it really holds up well after seventy years. Obviously, it can be said that a lot of the themes found in the movie are especially resonate these past few years and it's completely true. I guess the best part of the movie captures the whole experience of the Depression era, but one that doesn't end on a bitter note or condemnation of America. In fact, the movie is quite the opposite - there's always a ray of silver lining on the horizon for the Joads.

It's quite an ambitious film and it's does a great job of focusing in on one family's ordeal after being supplanted from their home. I thought Henry Fonda was excellent as Tom and the supporting cast was just as good. They all delivered a believable family with flaws and ambitions. I really can't explain why this movie got to the me the way it did, but I really, really enjoyed it. I want to read the book now and I think that's the highest praise you can get for a movie adaptation. It's a movie that I could sit down and watch over and over again.

Rating: Own It!

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