14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Ford's depiction of the Great Depression,
This review is from: Grapes of Wrath [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) has just been released from jail. He returns to his Oklahoma home to find that his family have been kicked off of their farm due to foreclosure. Like nearly all of the other farmers, Tom and his large family load up their belongs and head to California to find work. Along the way they manage to find some work but it amounts to nothing more than slave labour. The ending attempts to be hopeful but is in no way resolved.
This film was adapted from a John Steinbeck novel. It is much more optimistic than Steinbeck's account. The film also eliminates a lot of the political edge found in Steinbeck's book. It chooses to focus more on family and the importance of the family unit when going through hard times, i.e.: The Great Depression, as well as show a universal account of American society. That's not to say it differs greatly from the book, but quite the opposite because at the time of its release it was praised for being as faithful to the book as it could have.
John Ford's political stance pointed more towards conservatism. He was a member of the Republican Party. And so what is interesting when looking at The Grapes of Wrath is that is it the most popular left wing film of pre-war Hollywood. Within its socialist framework the film realistically depicts the truth of the Great Depression and the result it had on the thousands of farmers who suffered from oppression imposed by banks etc... On a wider level the Joad family are seen to be the social microcosm.
A reason for the films realism lies in Fords direction. He shot the film with a distinct documentary feel. This included location shooting, and little rehearsal to make it more spontaneous (the final scene used in the film is a read through and the actors were not aware they were being filmed). The landscape of rural America is also something that adds immense realism to the film.
This is a film that tries to attain the 'American dream' amid great adversity. Ma Joad's (Jane Darwell) speech at the end of the film takes away the desperation seen throughout the film. She talks with hope and optimism saying 'Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good, an' they die out. But we keep a-comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out. They can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people.'
Ultimately this is a realistic, socialist depiction of The Great Depression. It leaves the viewer feeling comforted, optimistic and hopeful for the Joad's. This would have also been the feeling in 1940, a year before the Great Depression officially ended.
This is a film that can give you a taste of what it may have been like to live during 1930s America. It is seminal for this reason and worthy of watching.