Mayella Ewell: I got somethin’ to say. And then I ain’t gonna say no more. He took advantage of me. An’ if you fine, fancy gentlemen ain’t gonna do nothin’ about it, then you’re just a bunch of lousy, yella, stinkin’ cowards, the – the whole bunch of ya, and your fancy airs don’t come to nothin’. Your Ma’am’in’ and your Miss Mayellarin’ – it don’t come to nothin’, Mr. Finch, not… no.
R: Once, although I’ve never read the book.
F: Once also and I have read the book.
R: The court room drama in this I love. The rest of it I find it a little slow paced, and I’m not sure the performances from the children are quite good enough, given how much screen time they have. Like the first time we watched it, my biggest takeaway might have been that I really need to get around to reading the book.
F: The book is a classic – I read it as a teenager and again a couple of years ago. And I think this is a true representation of the novel. I actually quite like the child performances here. Sure not the greatest acting ever but they capture the tone of the film very well.
R: You’re right, the kids aren’t terrible, but we’re in the final 25 now and I expect more than “good enough”. Does this adaptation give you anything you can’t already get from the book?
F: The book is so well written and it’s a classic American story. I think it’s hard for the film to compete with it but this is as good an adaptation as you can hope for. For me it’s all about Atticus Finch. In the book he comes across as a true hero and Gregory Peck really embodies this role. Actually very inspiring – I’d say more so than Mr Smith from last time’s film.
R: Fair enough, it’s just for me a bit weird to say this is the 25th best American film ever made, but by the way, it’s not the definitive version of the story and you’re better off reading the book. But I guess context is everything, and the fact that this gets close to matching such a well regarded book no doubt helped establish film as a medium that’s as artistically credible as books.
F: Well I’d definitely argue that film is a credible medium as the novel but that’s a debate for another day. For me what this film did was enhance the book. Everyone has their own images in their head when reading a novel but – because this is well written and described, everyone has a similar vision – this captures exactly how I imagined the book. Changing subject though, did the score slightly distract you from this like it did me?
R: Yes, the score is one of the most dated elements. There’s the moment when the kids are sneaking up to the Radley house where I found it particularly distracting with its abrupt plink-plonk “tense” notes. Then at other times it feels really bland. Overall, I’d have to say this is a film that’s good in spite of, not because of, the score.
F: Yeah that’s the scene I’m thinking of too. What do you think of the Boo Radley storyline?
R: I suppose that’s the bit of the story I find least effective. There’s so much focus on the Radley house by the children in the early part of the film, and the way it pays off at the end just feels a bit too convenient and unsatisfying for me. Is that very controversial?
F: The whole film is told through Scout’s point of view and so I do think that’s fairly realistic – as in kids would be more excited about the mysterious man who lives in the house next door than their father’s legal trial! But I agree the ending is the least effective part of the film.
R: Does it work better in the book?
F: Yes I think so. You should read it – I’ll lend you my copy.
Is it worthy of the top 100?
R: An important film undoubtedly, but for me not one of the 100 best.
F: Yes one of the best adaptations of a book.