TV Party Tonight! #147

TV Party Tonight! #147

Monday, 08 July 2024

East of Eden
[4K Edition]

East of Eden might be one of the most celebrated books ever and Elia Kazan one of the most celebrated directors ever, but boy did they botch this one. I hate to come in so hot, but this movie just brought it out of me. It’s one of those cases where I have so many thoughts on why I didn’t like a movie that I just want to get it out into words.

Why are people so obsessed with James Dean? If it’s because of his performance in Rebel Without a Cause, I must be missing something because it’s all ham and no bread. If it’s because of East of Eden, I’m missing it too, because it’s all teen angst and none of the brains. Seriously, Dean should stop aping Brando and do his own thing. Not that Brando wasn’t a ham, but the guy at least was compelling to watch on screen. You can tell he was an asshole in real life, but at least it translated into intense performances.

I know movies based on books have to cut the fat and get to the story, but the beauty of the book is that you understand what drives these characters and why they make the decisions they do. That IS the story. In this move adaptation, Kazan has chosen to cut all the backstory and get the final conflict between our protagonists, but we don’t know who they are or what’s driving them, so, honestly, we don’t care. And how dare Kazan make Adam Trask this cruel one-dimensional character? He’s all heart in the book! Doesn’t Kazan understand people have depth? I guess he thinks he can tell a better story than Steinbeck. Don’t think this movie has its head up its own ass? It starts with an overture, but it’s not even 2 hours long.

There is some beautiful scenery in East of Eden (and we saw it), and it might have been shot in Technicolor but it wasn’t recorded in Techniaudio. Almost all the dialogue is horribly ADR’ed and if you pay attention to people’s mouths (and you should!), you can see they rarely match what you hear. Stellar production.

What a shame. East of Eden is boring, devoid of joy, and pretty unrelatable. It’s a legendary epic in its own mind.

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