Of Mice and Men [1939]

A strong argument favors Gary Sinise's 1992 Of Mice and Men over the classic 1939 version that critics have historically preferred. As adapted by the great playwright-screenwriter Horton Foote, John Steinbeck's Depression-era masterpiece comes alive with timeless simplicity, more candid in language and behavior, and therefore more honest in its embrace of Steinbeck's beloved pair of lowly dreamers George (Sinise) and his retarded cousin Lennie (John Malkovich). On the lam, they find work as farmhands, joining a close-knit crew and trying to avoid trouble stirred by the dangerously seductive wife (Sherilyn Fenn) of the boss's sadistic son (Casey Siemaszko). There's not a false note or bad performance in the entire film; as veterans of Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater, Malkovich and Sinise possess the compassionate chemistry that makes George and Lennie inseparable until the tragic, inevitable final scene. As director, Sinise serves the material with no-frills fidelity; it's easy to believe that Steinbeck would have approved. --Jeff Shannon

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