East of Eden - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

East of Eden Reviews

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September 11, 2016
John Steinbeckīs brilliant īCain and Abelī themed story was conveyed in a condensed version by this timeless classic film. The film zoomed straight to the first of two most important events in the story. Firstly Cal discovering his long lost mother / brothel owner and meeting her. Secondly Calīs emotional devastation when his monetary present to his righteous dad was rejected. Cal then took revenge by taking his angel brother Aaron to meet his Madam mother, thus destroying his innocence and image of their mother being a saint. Brilliant performance all round especially James Dean. He was born for the role with his boyish, winsome and rebellious nature, yet having a fragile and sensitive side in him. Although the film did a fine job in conveying Steinbeckīs story essence, one serious omission was the Chinese butler/servant in the Trass family. In the book, he was the pillar of strength for the Trass family, both morally and also for all the daily chores that kept the household in good order.
September 7, 2016
It's one of the most inspirational and excellent movies that I have ever seen!!!! I definetely encourage you to see it at least once during your lifetime!!! For me, it's one of the movies that you should watch before you die!!!!
½ July 28, 2016
Watch James Dean in any one of his three films and you'll observe that he always seems to be a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not in the sense that his characters are unyieldingly conflict-ridden - though they are - but in the sense that Dean himself seems to exist on a different planet than the greater sum of his peers. He seems too contemporary, too ageless, as if it were destined from the start that he'd never live long enough to be personified as anything else besides a symbol of teenage rebellion. Looking at a colored photograph of the actor at his prime and an outsider might not realize that in front of them is a star of sixty years ago, not a suave, cool fixture of the modern age.
It's astonishing how unscathed Dean's legend has remained sixty-one years after his 1955 death. One comprises their filmography of only a trio of movies and they become largely forgotten, a cultishly fondled over sign of the times. But Dean's then (and still) excitingly fresh personal appeal, endorsed by films and performances that harnessed his capabilities miraculously well, allows for his persona to go far beyond what the big screen usually allows. Like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, or even John Wayne, he seems to be additionally playing James Dean, not just a character sketched out by a persnickety screenwriter.
1955's "East of Eden," his feature debut and the only movie released during his lifetime, contains his best and most pensive performance. He's so much an "other" (when comparing his acting style to his studio system controlled peer group) that a bizarre charge overcomes us when watching him; we cling onto every move he makes, as if trying to avoid losing grasp of the fleeting longevity of his stardom. It's a characterization not made impressive out of stagey, fiery monologues, per usual in the melodrama preferring Hollywood of the time, but out of idiosyncratic zeal. Heavy on improvisation and dependent on contortionistic body movement as an emotional release, Dean's performance was unprecedented in 1955 and remains to be extraordinary.
"East of Eden" itself is a loose adaptation of the second half of John Steinbeck's novel, which unapologetically modernized the biblical story of Cain and Abel. The film, set in coastal California in the late 1910s, follows the lives of Cal and Aron Trask (Dean and Richard Davalos), the sons of a humble vegetable farmer (Raymond Massey). Aron is a charming extrovert, dating the susceptible Abra (Julie Harris) and uninhibitedly preferred by his old man. He's ripe for a sensible future, which marks for great contrast from his brother.
Cal, by comparison, is a gawky introvert whose self-confidence has been maimed by his father's unhidden disfavor of him. He acts erratically and isn't able to socialize with normality - he's never known what it's like to be loved. His mother's death, said to have occurred just a few years after his birth, hasn't helped his unstable identity, either. Cal longs to be like his father, who is a smart businessman, and he perhaps wishes to be more like Aron, who is self-possessed and better able to express himself.
But the film finds him at a major turning point in his life. Nearing adulthood, Cal is starting to move past contently living in the shadows; he craves something more. Much of his newfound desire to break out of his shell has to do with his discovering that his mother (Jo Van Fleet) isn't dead - she's actually the owner of the town brothel - and that love really can exist; he finds it with Abra, who's beginning to doubt her long-standing relationship with Aron. But patriarchal approval is the one thing that stands in the way of Cal's potential, and success will elude him until he receives it.
Whereas "Rebel Without a Cause" has dated since its initial release, now playing as a rather safe (but still compelling) coming-of-age shocker, "East of Eden" prevails as a meditative family drama, visually inventive and naturalistically acted. It captures what made Dean so special beautifully, allowing for his own ticks and sensitivities to break through the celluloid, and it surrounds him with an ensemble just as distinctively disparate. Harris, though ten years too old for the part, brings accessible girl-next-door allure to the part, so convincingly at a psychological tug-of-war that our empathy swallows us. Van Fleet is incendiary as Cal and Aron's wicked mother, and Burr is superbly condescending as a father unable to realize the damage his emotional put-downs are having on his youngest.
But "East of Eden" is Dean's movie, and never does he let us forget it. His character's acute delicacy makes him all the more of a gripping protagonist - we're desperate to get inside his head, akin to the way Harris's Abra attempts to free him from his self-hate - and the emotional bruises that come along with his imbalances hurt us just as much as they hurt him.
We can only ponder what would have become of Dean's career had he been able to be more than a three hit wonder. Would he have continued redefining himself, like Newman, or would he have become a victim of his own insecurities, like Brando? Ambiguity reigns, and the viewing of "East of Eden" is partially so thrilling because we consume so much of him. We have so little. But the film is also a magnificent drama, in spite of Dean's being in it. Sure is fortunate to have him, though - couldn't imagine anyone else in his shoes, just like I can't picture a different icon of 1950s teenage disaffection besides him.
½ July 15, 2016
I found this to be a profoundly moving experience. Also the first film I've seen James Dean in and I now fully understand the obsession people have with him... Quite a unique actor. His whole 'tormented soul' bit was great, but what really floored me was the joy, charm, and seductiveness he could exude, all at once.

Also, his mother in the film is a fantastic character. Probably my favourite thing in it, a principled rebel against societal norms that would see her 'fenced in' as a woman.

I also saw the film as a powerful statement on the corrupting influence of capitalism on human relations... Considering the director that may have been unintentional, but all the characters hoping war will come so they can increase profits make capitalism look pretty ugly.
July 10, 2016
James Dean starred in three movies before he died. I saw the other two (Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) about 15 years ago, so I was due to see the third. The movie took a while to draw me in. At the beginning the characters are pretty one-dimensional and hard to identify with. But as it went on I started to warm up. Two scenes in particular I liked were the scene where Cal asks his mom for money and the scene with Cal and Abra on the ferris wheel. At times this feels like it's missing big chunks that would better show how the characters develop. That's one difficulty with adapting an epic book, unless you make it the length of Gone With The Wind. It really is a shame that Dean died so young because you could tell that he was just coming into his own as a star.
½ May 25, 2016
Interesting film loosely based on the biblical story of Abel and Cain. The film doesn't cover all of Steinbeck book, but what it does cover, directoring genius Elia Kazan has done a very good job. This is probably Dean's best film. While Dean gets most of the attention, I couldn't help but feel that Julie Harris was far more captivating in her scenes with him.
January 18, 2016
I just... can't do Steinbeck. In all incarnations. I was bored out of my mind for most of this movie, then it caught my attention for the like 15 minutes where Cal gets nasty and tells Aron about their mom and then Aron hits his face into glass but other than that, this movie had zero impact on me.
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2015
Family, love, and digging yourself up from beneath the dirt, (to name a few) are all underlying elements throughout this picture. This beautifully directed, James Dean (his first) lead feature, proves as a defining movie of it's decade. As Cal is ridiculed by his father and looked down upon by others, due to the fact that his brother has everything going for him, including a love interest, he sets out to make a name for himself and turn his life around. A long time ago, his family was abandoned by his mother and he sets out to collect money to help return the favours given by his father. In hopes to be accepted by his father, mother, and respected by the town and his own brother, Cal Trask is one complex character that I could just not get enough of. James Dean is terrific in this film and the screenplay is adapted brilliantly. Lessons about life, love, and happiness leap off the screen and I bought every message. Everything about this film screams greatness in filmmaking to me and it is definitely one of the best films I have ever seen. "East of Eden" is a breathtaking picture.
September 23, 2015
TOHO CINEMAS Nagoya Baycity, 2015/9/23
August 17, 2015
I may have seen this in theater, back then: in 1955, Kazan cast a then-unknown James Dean as the lead in his adaptation of John Steinbeck's "East of Eden."
August 10, 2015
It might not be as popular as Rebel Without a Cause, nor as engaging, but East of Eden has James Dean at his best - probably his strongest performance on film (of course there weren't that many of them). The whole cast is great, specifically Julie Harris and Jo Van Fleet. This is great Americana pop culture perfectly directed by Elia Kazan.
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2015
Elia Kazan's powerful drama which set in during World War I as it rages, James Dean received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his brilliant portrayal of the sensitive Cal Trask, who competes with his brother Aron, superbly played by Richard Davalos for their stern father's affections, who is played sensationally by the great Raymond Massey, and spar over their feelings for Abra, played terrifically by Julie Harris, who becomes engaged to Aron but secretly loves Cal. The stress leads to their father Adam suffering a stroke, which actually helps knit the family back together. The tension onscreen is strong and unforgettable, this classic film is truly an emotional powerhouse thanks to Elia Kazan's meticulous Academy Award nominated direction, and of course James Dean's remarkably potent and empathic performance. There is also an impressive Academy Award winning performance by Jo Van Fleet as Kate. Simply a stunning cinematic masterpiece in all respects! Highly Recommended.
July 3, 2015
James Dean has an undeniable screen presence, and it is that which drives an otherwise fairly mediocre film. (First and only viewing - 5/26/2015)
May 4, 2015
I felt pity for Cal. He's a restless soul, all he ever wanted is to be loved at least by one of his parents. James Dean is so good, he becomes the same with Cal. He's so young, but so mature at the same time. It's incredible he's known just for three movies. But when you see his acting you understand he was one of the best actors of his generation. He's just mesmerizing.
April 9, 2015
Fantastic movie with amazing actors
½ March 23, 2015
7.5. James dean great. Other actors not so much.
March 22, 2015
A young man simply looking for his father's love and approval. But it seems that everything he does is wrong in his father's eyes. Yet, his brother can do no wrong. Until the end of the movie. Great performance and the first movie I have seen starring James Dean. What an actor.
March 21, 2015
Really enjoyed this one, I had actually never seen it before. Based on a novel by Steinbeck and directed by Elia Kazan, it certainly had pedigree. Dean is excellent in it, what many consider his best performance. James Dean is so well know, it's easy to forget he only really had 3 films, so it's a testament to his screen presence and acting that his legend continues. I also quite like Julie Harris who's in one of my favourite horror films, "The Haunting". It was nice to watch this on Blu-ray, seek it out!
February 18, 2015
James Dean really doesn't know how to act. He's just a pretty face. Anyway, the book is soooooooo much better.
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