Considering James Franco's first feature as a director was the dreadful goofball comedy The Ape, you'd think he'd gravitate more towards stoner comedy. Instead he's tackled complex projects based on the works of acclaimed writers such as Hart Crane, William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and John Steinbeck. So give credit where credit is due; Franco doesn't shy away from a challenge, even if the results haven't been so good. Could he have finally turned the corner with his latest adaptation, Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle?
With a premiere in Venice right around the corner, the first trailer for the film has arrived for the drama, which was published in 1936 as part of Steinbeck's "Dustbowl Trilogy" along with Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. The Depression Era story centers on two idealistic union reps aiding California apple pickers in a labor dispute. Franco stars alongside Nat Wolff, Vincent D’Onofrio, Selena Gomez, Ed Harris, Zach Braff, Ahna O'Reilly, Josh Hutcherson, Danny McBride, Sam Shepard, Robert Duvall, Analeigh Tipton, Ashley Greene, and Bryan Cranston.
Here's the synopsis: Set in the orchards of California Valley in the dirty ’30s, Steinbeck’s tale follows two young idealists from “The Party” who are appalled by the orchards’ terrible working conditions and set out to organize the fruit pickers. Having arrived from out of town, Mac McLeod (Franco) and Jim Nolan (Nat Wolff ) are met with skepticism and some outright hostility when they first suggest unionizing. Most of the pickers simply want to work and get paid, even if they are being mercilessly exploited. Mac and Jim realize that their progress depends on convincing local elder Al Anderson (Vincent D’Onofrio). He’s a hard nut, but could be won over after Mac helps his daughter-in-law, Lisa (Selena Gomez), when she goes into labour. Surrounding the two activists is a cast of eclectic characters with varying loyalties, among them the ruthless orchard owner (Robert Duvall), who is determined to crack down on any strike action.
So far there's no distribution but Franco has always found a way to get it done, and chances are he will again whether the film impresses on the festival circuit or not.