East of Eden (1955)

East of Eden (1955) — So I saw this movie a few years ago when the James Dean box set came out.  I liked it a lot.  Then I read the book earlier this month.  Now one of my friends’ favorite book is East of Eden and he hates this movie.  Probably because the movie is only a loose adaptation of the last hundred pages of a six hundred page epic novel.  So it really isn’t even the movie he hates but rather the weight of his expectations crushed any chance he would have had of liking the movie.  Now I sometimes have difficulty separating adaptations from their source material.  Wanted comes to mind (loved the comic, hated the movie), but I’m pretty sure I would have hated that movie even if I never read the comic.  As for East of Eden, I really liked it.  Even after reading the book.  The movie doesn’t hold a candle to the book if you were to compare the two, but the same could be said for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and that is one of my favorite movies.  James Dean turns in the most complex performance of his brief career.  Oddly enough, Rebel Without a Cause is the role that became iconic for him but East of Eden better exemplifies a lot of the same emotions but better developed.  Raymond Massey and Richard Davalos make their characters a bit more dick-ish than they should have, but in the 1950s I notice that subtlety isn’t the predominant method of acting.  After reading the book, Elia Kazan’s movie comes off as an acoustic cover of John Steinbeck’s fully orchestrated magnum opus.  The themes are still present even if they aren’t illustrated in as much depth. Sidenote: I recognized shooting locations as being in Mendocino, CA, one of my favorite vacation destinations so that was cool.

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