27 May 2005 | JuguAbraham
Amazing movie adaptation of a great book
Often a movie is associated with its actors or its director. I would associate this film more with Horton Foote the brilliant scriptwriter, who sculpted the script from a great book by a formidable author, John Steinbeck.
When I read Steinbeck's book I was in awe of the author's powerful strokes of simplicity. Adapting the book into a screenplay can be formidable. Foote did it earlier with Harper Lee's novel "To kill a Mockingbird". He did it again in Beresford's "Tender Mercies". Some of the flashes of brilliance in the script are the opening sequence of the woman running scared into the camera, the opening and closing images of light falling on the dark insides of a train car, the empty bus ride that Steinbeck did not present. Director Gary Sinise and Foote made the adaptation of the novel on screen look easier by adding details just as scriptwriter Robert Bolt and director David Lean did the opposite by compressing the details with Pasternak's "Doctor Zhivago". Both "Dr Zhivago" and "Of Mice and Men" are great examples of adapting literary works for the screen.
This is not to discount the contribution of Gary Sinise. Director Sinise and Actor Sinise were admirable. The former brought out the finest in the latter. This is Sinise's finest performance.
Malkovich is a talented actor--he commands attention. Whether a more restrained performance was called for or not is debatable.
Equally stunning is the film's music by Mark Isham--the man who grabbed my attention in "Never Cry Wolf", "Mrs Soffel" and "A Midnight Clear". Sinise was wise using the music effectively when required and not overdoing it to evoke pathos. The music doesn't sooth you, it nudges you to reflect on life.
The film is a great essay on loneliness. Most importantly, it is a great example of how a literary work ought to be adapted without changing the author's vision. Remarkably, the film added more to Steinbeck's work with the train ride and the bus ride. That's Foote!