John Malkovich as Lennie Small
Gary Sinise as George Milton
Casey Siemaszko as Curley
Sherilyn Fenn as Curley’s wife
Some film adaptations of classic novels run into problems when they try to divert too far from the original story, in their desire to set themselves apart they can lose the very essence that endears them to the masses. Gary Sinise’s version of Of Mice and Men however steers clear of that pitfall, the plot sticks faithfully to Steinbeck’s original and the result is a triumphant homage to the novel.
John Malkovich gives an incredible performance as Lennie, the gentle giant with a penchant for soft things and getting himself and loyal friend George into trouble. It is a true testament to Malkovich’s talent as an actor that he can play Lennie’s simplicity with such a depth that it tugs at the audiences heart strings.
If Malkovich is exquisite as Lennie then Gary Sinise is equally so in his portrayal of George, the eternally loyal best friend doing his best to keep Lennie safe. Sinise plays the character with a strength and dignity that allows the inner turmoil George faces shine through whilst still encouraging love and forgiveness from the audience. It should also be noted that in his role as director Sinise helped to craft the noble adaptation.
One of the main themes throughout Of Mice and Men is the strong bond of friendship between men, this is brought to life in every aspect of the screenplay. The subtleties that Gary Sinise brings to his character when he is dealing with Lennie, and the clear turmoil when he has to make that final heart breaking decision, brings to life that sense of love between the two men. This adaptation is impeccably presented and the brilliant performances from Sinise and Malkovich make it well worth a watch whether you have read the novel or not.
Title: Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck
Cove Copy: “An intimate portrait of two men who cherish the slim bond between them and the dream they share in a world marred by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend Lenny dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own — a couple of acres and a few pigs, chickens, and rabbits back in Hill Country where land is cheap. But after they come to work on a ranch in the fertile Salinas Valley of California, their hopes, like “the best laid schemes of mice and men,” begin to go awry.”
My thoughts: When I first read Of Mice and Men I was fifteen and studying it for my Junior Certificate in secondary school. That was almost ten years ago now and to be honest although I remembered the general plot I had forgotten what a powerful and exceptionally well written story Steinbeck had created.
The literary genius of this novel rests on the relationship between the two main characters, Lennie and George, from their friendship to their shared desire of owning their own farm in a time when hope was at an all time low. Lennie and George are two very different characters that stick together through all the challenges that life throws at them and this unbreakable bond of friendship creates a very endearing basis for this novel.
It is made abundantly clear that George’s life would be easier if he didn’t travel with Lennie but his unwavering loyalty and desire to do what’s best for his disadvantaged friend is one of the most heart warming plot points in this novel. Throughout the story the damning sense of an inability to be free from their troubles plagues Lennie and George but the reader is given a reprieve towards the end when the ultimate price is paid for peace.
“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place….With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.”
“I can still tend the rabbits, George? I didn’t mean no harm, George.”
Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a classic piece of literature that primarily focuses on the strength of friendship between two farm labourers in America during the depression but looking beyond that there are elements of social commentary on the time, some of which still translate. As a stand alone novel this is worth every reader’s attention at least once.