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79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine, workable adaptation, June 7, 2001
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This review is from: Sometimes a Great Notion [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Firstly, I cannot stress enough that one read the novel. It is one of the finest American novels ever written.
Kesey's superb epic novel with its shifting points of view and verb tense is far too complex a work to adapt directly to the camera's limited third person POV. Kesey's rich and dense narrative prose, while exceptionaly cinematic in its description and action ironically proves unfilmable.
That said, Paul Newman and his production team created a most admirable and solid, if very truncated adaptation of Kesey's excellent novel. It is near impossible to fit the novel's rumbling narrative into a mere hour and a half.
Unlike the more famous film version of Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey admires this filming of his work. It is important viewing on that note alone.
Sadly missing is the critical sub-plot involving a love triangle between Lee and Vivian. As a result, a great deal of Lee's motivation and narrative tension is lost. According to Kesey, the triangle was filmed but lopped off to save running time. Maybe it will come back in the DVD version.
The dialouge, while rather shallow and weak in spurts (much of Kesey's rich vernacular is lost- save for the brilliant aphorisistic interjection "Boy, Howdy!"), is effectively and evocatively brought to life by a wonderful ensemble cast featuring some of America's finest. Who better than Henry Fonda to play Newman's father. Richard Jaekel richely earns his Oscar nomination as the dim-witted but enthusiastic born again lumberjack JoBen. The famous drowning scene is heartbreakingly tragic and darkly comic and this owes directly to both the expert acting of Newman and Jaekel and Newman's own expert direction.
Newman spent a great deal of time in my native Oregon researching the part. He also invited Kesey to hang around on the set and the two of them partied a great deal together. Newman's homework shows vividly as much of Kesey's descriptions resound intact in the brilliant photography presented here. The sense of time and place is impressively captured in the framing of the omnipresent rusting metal, dripping ferns, rotting wood and mildewed carpets that one sees on the Oregon coast. This is a film that one can almost smell.
Special note must be also made of Henry Mancini's twangy country score. It sounds exactly like something found in a juke box in some coastal dive circa 1970.
Newman is one of the finest artists ever to come out of Hollywood. Not only as an actor, but also as a director. He instinctivly knows how to illicit naturalistic, comfortable and utter human performances from his casts and Sometimes A Great Notion is no exception. This is not a great film, by any stretch, but it is most definately a film worth seeing.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 13, 2011 11:41:45 AM PDT
In order to really appreciate this film as the reviewer says you must read the book.
I just finished reading it and now I see the movie in an entirely new light.This novel requires reading and rereading it's an education in itself.
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