This is likely one of the best films you've never seen. It's one of those "one of a kind" experiences, like "A Man and a Woman." The story is a riveting exploration of many types of love and how deeply this creates the fissures and pathways of our lives. To tell you more would be to deprive you of the experience of viewing the unfolding and unanticipated directions the journey takes you. Superb cinematography and inspired performance by the three major characters makes this one not to miss.
Given the state of the American audience, and the critics today who are collectively more likely to follow than lead that audience, the mixed bag of reviews this film received is not all that surprising. This is truly unfortunate in the case of this moving film. Here you will find none of the cynicism and mean-spiritedness that fills the screens and minds of most viewers today. There's a pivotal fire, but only one mini-explosion. No guns. No CGI. People actually like and LOVE each other in this neighborhood, set in 1976 (a kinder, gentler time that I remember well). But rather than being saccharine, as the skeptics trumpet, there is enough prejudicial misunderstanding (provided by the Irish firefighter husband and father of 8!) to balance out the innocent positivity and acceptance that prevails. Sure, its tearjerker aspect rivals that of any film which kills off a character or two. But here it is handled sensitively, and doesn't insult the audience. If you have any semblance of hope for human beings and their behavior toward others, you need to watch this film.
Critics and amateur reviewers alike appear to be so influenced by the genuine strength of Steinbeck's novel, and the generally admirable performances of Sinese and Malkovitch in other films, that they embraced this movie accordingly, not paying enough attention to what they actually saw on screen!
Casting Malkovitch as Lennie was preposterous. The character is supposed to be an imposing mountain of a man, immediately striking fear in all strangers. John is puny, even compared to the miniscule Sinese. This takes away ALL of the power of that character. We simply don't believe he could scare anyone, nor annoy and intimidate Curly. Sinese doesn't portray either the intelligence of George, nor his honest affection for Lennie. Sinese overplays his frustration (merely occasional in the book) to the point where I wanted to yell to Lennie onscreen "leave that rotten SOB!" The dialogue between the two, so powerful in the book, falls apart into an annoying exchange that seems like a phone call between a telemarketer and a reluctant customer. There are many important people at the camp, a rich panoply that focus the main duo and drive the eventual tragedy. But here none of them measure up to their key roles.
Why anyone would attempt to remake this film is beyond me. NOTHING could come close to the amazing black and white original with Burgess Meredith as George, and Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie. Not only were they great actors, but they melded into their characters so naturally that one believes they are "watching' the novel rather than a movie. I read the book long before I saw that original, and when I finally did, it was as if the very people I imagined in my head appeared onscreen exactly as I thought they'd look and act. Skip this travesty at all costs!