In this film based on John Steinbeck’s epic novel, Cal Trask (James Dean), the son of a California farmer (Raymond Massey), feels that his father cares only about his brother, Aron (Richard Davalos). When Cal embarks on a business venture to gain the favor of his dad, he finds himself dealing with his estranged mother (Jo Van Fleet), now the owner of a brothel, and tensions in the family rise even further when he begins to fall for Aron’s girlfriend, Abra (Julie Harris).
Ever felt lost?–have trouble finding your place in the world?–feel jealous of, or ignored by, a family member? If you answered yes to any of these questions, beware–the resonance you may feel toward the characters of this film may be so intense, the emotional pull of its story so overwhelming, that at its end you will find yourself exhausted, spent, trembling in its cathartic wake. I find it so every time I see it. As an examination of the terrible undercurrents in family relationships, of adolescent angst and loneliness, of the universal need for love and the awful consequences of its being withheld, it is nearly peerless. Movies that toyed with similar themes, like “The Graduate” or “Rebel Without a Cause,” though great films, do not come close to packing the emotional wallop this film delivers.
To a large part, the intensity of the affective response generated by watching “East of Eden” must be attributed to the strength of the performances. No false notes here. Raymond Massey, a truly superb actor who has largely, and undeservedly, been forgotten, gives one of his best performance as the father with a secret, a man with the best intentions in the world, who has nonetheless unwittingly crippled his son Cal with his sometimes harsh criticisms and his favoritism of his brother Aron. Julie Harris is simply wonderful as Abra, a young woman who gradually becomes disenchanted with the “perfect” brother, Aron, finding herself becoming more and more interested in the vaguely frightening, yet vulnerable Cal. Her “speech” near the end of the film to Cal’s father is heartrending. Everyone else is fine, from the always dependable Burl Ives to Albert Decker, and Jo van Fleet deserves special mention as the supposedly dead mother. The vehicle which propels the film, however, is James Dean who not only gives the best performance in his all too short career, but one of the best in cinematic history. It is truly amazing to watch him work here. The viewer becomes like putty in his hands, bending and rending our emotions at will. It’s a performance not to be missed.
The movie has received criticism because it does not follow the book, and leaves out at least the first two thirds of the novel. “East of Eden” is one of my favorite books, yet I have no trouble accepting this film on its own merits–which are considerable. A movie CANNOT be a book, though there have been several directors who seem blithely unaware of this giving us plodding movies straight-jacketed by their literary source. One cannot judge this movie solely by comparing it to the book, and with each deviation from the source, give it a demerit. I believe this movie is every bit as great as the book–but it is NOT the book. And John Steinbeck himself loved this movie, reportedly saying that the movie was a greater achievement than his book had been. That’s a recommendation good enough for me, and should be enough for the lovers of the book. You CAN love both. I do.
BRRip 720p | MKV | 1280 x 720 | x264 @ 2048 Kbps | 1h 57mn | 2,32 Gb
Audio: English AC3 5.1 @ 448 Kbps + Commentary track | Subs: English (embedded)
Genre: Drama, Romance