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Review for ART 1145 American Cinema - The Grapes of Wrath ⚠️ SPOILER WARNING ⚠️ The Grapes of Wrath, directed by John Ford and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and Nunnally Johnson, is a film based on a novel with the same name, written by John Steinbeck. The audience follows the story of Tod Joad (played by Henry Fonda), Ma Joad (played by Jane Darwell), Jim Casey (played by John Carradine), and other actors playing the rest of the Joad family. Tom Joad is on his way to his family farm in Oklahoma after serving four years in prison for killing a man. While on his journey back home he meets Jim Casey, a former preacher who baptized him when he was younger has lost his faith. They decide to go to his family farm together, only to find it abandoned, realizing his family has been evicted. After reuniting with his family at his uncle's farm, the whole family decides to migrate to California, in hopes to find work and a better life. The trip is dreadful, as the whole family (including Casey) experiences poverty, prejudice, and death as Grandpa and Grandma die before they even reach California. As they finally arrive in California, although they still experience some issues, things seem to be looking up for the Joad family (and Casey). However, Tom gets into some serious trouble, leading to him being on the run, leaving his family behind. There’s a slight moment of hope, as Ma Joad talks about their future. During a time where the United States is slowly starting to recover from the Great Depression and is still at the beginning of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this movie was produced very well. The audio is clear, the visuals are also great, despite it being a low-budget production. Watching this movie was one of the most bittersweet film experiences I’ve had, with a big emphasis on bitterness. Watching this film to follow the historically melancholic story of the Joad and going back and forth from hope and despair is not the happiest journey. However, I would recommend this movie! It’s a very important film that shows the trials and tribulations of what many Americans had to go through during the Great Depression and the strive and hope they had to have a better life for themselves and their families.
In he 1940 rendition of The Grapes of Wrath, based on the famed novel by John Steinbeck, director John Ford and producer Darryl F. Zanuck illustrate a somber, yet heartfelt film that encompasses the hardships that plagued the Joad family, as well as many other American families in the wake of the Dust Bowl. Along with the misfortune and oppression imparted onto the Joad family, the group's collective heroism and devotedness to each other is an overwhelmingly apparent theme continuously expressed throughout the entirety of the two-hour film. The film begins with the introduction of Tom Joad, who is portrayed as a brash young man, willing to sacrifice his own safety and well-being to defend his ego and uphold his own convictions. Upon being granted parole after being charged for manslaughter, Tom returns to his childhood home to find his family's property abandoned and dilapidated. Due to the isolation Tom experienced while in prison, he is unaware of the agricultural deprivation many Oklahoma farmers faced as a result of the Dust Bowl, along with the associated legal impositions being enforced by corporate landowners to evict many agricultural families. Once reuniting with his family and coming to accept the new normal, which he and his family would have to adapt to, Tom and the rest of the Joad family pack up their belongings, stuff themselves into a truck, and the family, along with an old friend and former teacher, Jim Casy, hit the road and head west. Thanks to handbills advertising agricultural work in California, the Joad family sets off with the hope of cultivating a new beginning for the family. The trek westward proves to be anything but easy and results tragically in the death of both Grandpa and Grandma Joad. During the trip the film introduces a theme of systematic oppression that remains prevalent throughout much of the film. Contrary to the Joads' preconceived notion of California and their hopes of cultural inclusion, the further they travel westward, the more rejected they become from society. The harsh reality of capitalism is overwhelmingly prevalent, and despite society's greed and lack of concern for the Joad family and many in similar positions, the Joad’s never lose sight of family, what they value most. Despite immense adversity and suffrage the Joad's face, Tom's mother (Ma) maintains complete and utter composure, acting as the glue that keeps the family bonded. In a tragic yet heartwarming conclusion, Tom is forced to leave his family and not return due to the assault he inflicted on a police officer during an altercation that resulted in the death of Jim Casy. Ma and Tom have one last goodbye, and Tom makes his climactic exit. The movie ends with Ma sharing her sentiments of the family's endurance and her conviction that the family will go on forever. Although the film is over 80 years old, the messages portrayed remain relevant and can likely be appreciated by most viewers. One particular detail from the film that exceeded my expectations was the audio. The dialogue, along with the music and background sound, are very prominent and help set a specific atmosphere and tempo for every scene. Despite being an older film, I was very impressed by the entirety of its composure, the attention to detail, and the captivating story. Overall, this film shattered my expectations, and after watching the movie, it is more than evident why the film continues to sustain its reputation and long-running success. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who appreciates the value of family, desires to learn about tenant farming and the Dust Bowl, or is interested in viewing an older film for its unique dialogue and historic motion picture styling.