Of Mice and Men
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Of Mice and Men: In brief
Director Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) revives John Steinbeck's 1937 dramatization of his novel about migrant field workers in Depression-era California. James Franco plays big-dreaming George and Chris O'Dowd is mentally disturbed Lennie, who doesn't know his own strength.
Of Mice and Men: Theater review by David Cote
When Depression-era migrant workers George Milton (Franco) and Lennie Small (O’Dowd) roll into a California ranch, the hands say it’s “funny” that the guys travel together. There’s a faint suggestion in such remarks that furtive George and simpleminded Lennie have a bond that goes beyond friendship. Mainly, though, the others are surprised by partners in a line of work that attracts loners. Truth is, the men need each other—just as Franco needs O’Dowd to help him achieve full stageworthiness in John Steinbeck’s 1937 theatrical adaptation of his novel Of Mice and Men. Franco gives an easy, well-shaded performance, but it’s O’Dowd who stuns with a harrowingly real Lennie.
The role of a mentally disabled character can be either technically overdone or a wallow in bathos, but O’Dowd is superb—watch his delicate hand fluttering and how he steals looks at the boss’s flirty daughter-in-law (Leighton Meester). As Lennie grows too excited, causing death when he only wants to pet (animals and people), the hulking O’Dowd combines incredible physical menace with terrorized vacancy.
The film actors are buoyed by a sterling supporting cast—including Jim Parrack as good-hearted cowboy Slim, Jim Norton as old-timer Candy and the incomparable Ron Cephas Jones as lonely Crooks—all corralled by gimlet-eyed director Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County). They work hard, and they pull together.—Theater review by David Cote
THE BOTTOM LINE Franco and O’Dowd make a fantastic team.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote