ENTERTAINMENT
Oscars 2017: 'Moonlight' wins best picture after botched announcement

Sam Shepard

James Franco takes a page from Steinbeck in the laborious drama 'In Dubious Battle'

James Franco takes a page from Steinbeck in the laborious drama 'In Dubious Battle'

John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” chronicles a brief, intense labor strike by migrant apple pickers in Depression-era California, at a time when agricultural workers across the state were getting hit hard by wage cuts. Published in 1936 under a title inspired by “Paradise Lost,” it was the first book in the author’s celebrated Dust Bowl trilogy and the first to garner him a reputation as a champion of the proletariat.

That reputation would deepen further with “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” but even in the context of this early work, it feels both fully earned and a tad reductive. What’s remarkable about “In Dubious Battle” is how adroitly it balances sympathy and...

54°