Monday, March 21, 2011

388. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Running Time: 129 minutes
Directed By: Robert Mulligan
Written By: Horton Foote, from novel by Harper Lee
Main Cast: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Brock Peters, James Anderson


"To Kill a Mockingbird" may be the only adapted film in the book for which I read the novel that it was adapted from. I know it's sad, but I'm a movie watcher not a book reader. Anyway, since my wife had this from Netflix, I figured I might as well take the time to watch it so that I could polish it off.

I think most of us are familiar with the plot of "To Kill a Mockingbird", but if you're not, no worries...I'll recap it for you. The film basically follows around Scout Finch (Badham) and Jem Finch (Alford), as their childhood, living in the deep South, during the Great Depression, is recounted for us through narration from a grown-up Scout. Their father is Atticus (Peck), a man who embodies all that is good, proper and patient. Atticus is a lawyer and in his latest case he'll be defending a black man, Tom Robinson (Peters), accused of raping the young and white Mayella Ewell. Atticus takes the case without batting an eye, knowing deep down that he'll come under harsh scrutiny, but stating that if he doesn't defend Tom Robinson then he'll "never be able to walk down the street with his head held up" again. When the film is focusing on Atticus or his defense of Tom, we get to live through the eyes of six and ten year olds, as Scout and Jem develop a friendship with Dill Harris, tell tales of the scary and mysterious neighbor Boo Radley (Robert Duvall, in his screen debut), go to school and dress up as hams.


I don't think I'm going to take very much of your time here, but we'll see what happens when my fingers start pecking away at the keys. I've seen this film many times in my days and in fact, I can remember seeing it for the first time in school, shortly after my class finished reading Harper Lee's novel. Speaking of the novel, I want to interrupt myself here and tell you that none of what follows will be any type of book to film comparison. I've read the book, but it has been years and I've seen the film and all of what follows will be my interpretation and thoughts on the film alone.

One very interesting thing that I noticed this time around is that the ENTIRE movie is told through the eyes of the children. I mentioned this to my wife and she said "Well, yeah...the grown-up Scout is narrating the film." But that's not it, because there are some scenes where Scout isn't present but Jem is, but at least one of them is present in every single scene of the film and never do we hear a word uttered or an action played out that the kids wouldn't have been privy to or delivered themselves. I found this interesting because for me, it kind of changes the entire scope of the film. Whenever I would watch this film in the past I would look at Atticus Finch as not only one of the greatest literary characters that was ever developed, but also one of the greatest hero's of the big screen. Now, realizing that the film is basically us living in the kids' shoes for a couple of hours it makes me think - Is Atticus really as good as he seems or are we merely viewing the film through the eyes of Scout and Jem and looking at Atticus as any young child looks upon their father? Atticus has no flaws in the film because to a child looking up, a father has no flaws to their children and everything they seem to say seems to be a piece of great wisdom, dropped upon their psyche from above.

Atticus Finch is still a great character, no question. I just found it interesting that while I always viewed Atticus as the great man that he is, it seems that the film maker's go to great lengths to make it so that we're viewing Atticus as the children would view him.

Everything else is fine and if I had to change anything, I simply may have trimmed the movie down a bit as it does drag (just a hair) at the end and seems really stretched out. Gregory Peck was brilliant, but the biggest surprise is the fantastic job that the children did. All three of them, including Dill, were marvelous little actors and I could listen to Dill spew the line "My God Aunt Stephanie, you about gave me a heart attack!!" every day and still bust out laughing every time. I also want to mention the score, which seems to really boost this film into that Oscar category that it was able to bounce into. The score is just so warm and welcoming, but powerful too. I love it! I don't feel the need to harp on the racial or social themes of the film, only to mention that they are there and they are well defined. The film (and the book) definitely tackled some hard issues for their time and they did it well, in my opinion.

RATING: 7/10 Good stuff here, no doubt. Despite my relatively low rating, I'd still call this a must see film, as I really can't imagine a film fan who hasn't seen "To Kill a Mockingbird".


March 21, 2011 7:07pm

1 comment:

  1. To only slightly alter your comment, who can claim to be a film fan without having seen this several times. Hollywood at it's best.
    OK, a tad dated, a tad too 'earnest' perhaps, but powereful.And this is from someone who carn't stand films with children in them.
    An aside.. saw Sandra Bullock portray Harper Lee only yesterday in 'Infamous'- thats the 'other' Truman Capote/In cold blood film that go sadly overshadowed by 'Capote' coming out at the same time.


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