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The Shawshank Redemption

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A classic drama about hope, a comforting theme in disquieting times.

The Shawshank Redemption

Grade: A-

Director: Frank Darabont (The Mist)

Screenplay: Darabont from Stephen King novella  Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption

Cast: Tim Robbins (The Player), Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2h 22m

By: John DeSando

“Prison is no fairy tale world.” Red Redding (Morgan Freeman)

This quote is partly true in the context of the super-popular melodrama (based on a Stephen King novella), The Shawshank Redemption. As the opening 1947 scenes in Shawshank Prison in author King’s Maine (actually filmed in Mansfield, Ohio), the hero, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is raped multiple times by the “Sisters.” That’s to be expected from what prison lore offers over the years in movies and reality.

After Andy gets through these humiliations, and Morgan Freeman intones writer-director Frank Darabont's uplifting script about life inside and out, the story turns almost into a fairy tale: Former bank vice president Andy brings his business skills to high and low: warden, guards, and prisoners. Additionally, he and Red make like a buddy film out of the boredom of everyday prison life.

The intersection of being sent to the hole for months and working the system to almost a vacation world creates an incarceration nostalgia that seems too Hollywood fantastic to be real. Andy’s acquisition through Red of a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth not only expresses his love of geology and pop culture, it also reveals the salutary effect of the arts in lonely times.

When Andy plays an Italian opera over the loudspeaker, Red’s narration describes the music like a beautiful bird. It’s paradise for a brief moment.

Hope is the operative theme, hope that Andy and Red will someday be free to enjoy the Mexican Pacific Ocean:

“They say it has no memory. That's where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.” Andy

As entertainment in a time when we have been imprisoned by a pandemic, Shawshank Redemption is a welcome antidote.

Our own romantic hope is to be free of a tyrannical virus.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.