Film Review – ‘Of Mice and Men’ (1992)

It must be noted that Gary Sinise’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ was made in 1992 and to this day, still stands the test of time. Sinise captured the beauty and depression of the 1930’s and the era of The Great Depression is portrayed with excellent cinematography, superb performances and the correct balance of adaptation from novel to film. The film is 75% accurate to the book which is often rare for a film adaptation.

The plot is simple and the same as the famous novel of John Steinbeck. Two traveling companions, George (Sinise) and Lennie, (Malkovich) wander the country during the Depression, dreaming of a better life for themselves. Then, just as heaven is within their grasp, it is inevitably yanked away. The film follows Steinbeck’s novel closely, exploring questions of strength, weakness, usefulness, reality and utopia, bringing Steinbeck’s California vividly to life.

It is shocking how the film never garnered any Oscar nominations when it was truly deserved. Afterall, it is the most viewed film in High School’s to this day when analyzing the book on par with the film.

Gary Sinise starred in the film as George and he directed his real-life friend and colleague John Malkovich perfectly. Malkovich’s Lennie is slow minded, has a mind of a six-year-old and is a gentle giant with extreme strength but is unaware of how strong he is. The audience clearly see that Lennie is trapped in a 360-degree vicious circle. His constant mistakes is what prevents him from achieving their dream to “live of the fatta the lan” and for Lennie to “tend the rabbits.” Although Malkovich is six foot four inches, it is discreetly known that he wore high heeled platforms to make him taller and wore thick body padding to make him well built. His intimidating monstrous features will lash out at George’s command and when he commits violence, we clearly see that this may be the end of him. What will George do to break the 360-degree vicious circle? If you don’t know, you better watch as you’ll be blown away.

Sherilyn Fenn who plays Curley’s Wife is perfect and well-cast for the time. She was a rising star that enjoyed her fame on ‘Twin Peaks’ and this performance may have opened the doors to her most arguably famous and controversial role, ‘Boxing Helena’ where she replaced Kim Basinger. It is ironic that Fenn’s character Curley’s wife has dreams to be a rising Hollywood star, but is trapped in a loveless marriage. Here, Fenn would also become that rising star from this film. She is flirtatious, pretty and plays ‘jailbait’ down to a tee. If the other men talk to the married girl, they’ll be beat up and canned from the ranch. Sherilyn Fenn plays loneliness impeccably and the audience sympathise with her. If she persuades the mentally disabled Lennie to talk to her, how dangerous could talking to a gentle giant be? Especially one that likes to ‘pet soft things.’ An interesting secret that Sherilyn Fenn told me when I met her was, although she is not worthy of a name as she is the possession of her husband, Fenn gave her the name, ‘Daisy’ on the set.

What is cut from the film to the book is Curley’s wife is known to make racial threats and comments to the character of Crooks, played by Joe Morton, who one year prior played Miles Dyson from ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Sinise made a risky but brave directorial decision to cut this as he didn’t want Curley’s wife to seen as racist but more rather to sympathise with her. Although she is flirtatious and seeks the attention of men, she only does it because “She gets awful lonely” and is only used as sexual object from her husband Curley, played brilliantly and aggressively by Casey Siemaszko.

Gary Sinise had complete power and control over directing and acting in this film. He captures Steinbeck’s message perfectly. In the era of The Great Depression, people cannot achieve their dreams, but only die imagining it at the best. He captures friendship beautifully between him and Malkovich and the chemistry is perfect. We clearly see that George is the master and Lennie is his pet that will obey every command. The viewer will ponder, is this a real friendship? As the overall point is that friendship was scarce in these harsh times. You only count on yourself, yet the viewer admires that there is hope between the famous characters George and Lennie and that they almost defy the odds of friendship. Overall, George and Lennie’s friendship stands out like a huge gem in a pile of manure.

Of Mice and Men’ is a perfect remake of the 1930’s film and book. It is interesting how there has not been a film remake to beat its reputation. It is still the most watched and will always be remembered by any child that studied it in High School. Most grown-ups will remember they studied the novel and saw the film. The film will always leave an imprint to our hearts and must be watched constantly from generation to generation.

★★★★★


Drama, Western | USA, 1992 | 12 | Dir.Gary Sinise | John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, Ray Walston, Sherilyn Fenn