The Roaring Twenties opens during World War I as three soldiers: Eddie, Lloyd, and George discuss their future plans for when the war ends. Eddie is a man of modest ambitions, who simply wants to go back to working as a car mechanic. Lloyd aspires to be a lawyer but George's intentions are far less noble. When the war ends the men all return home, looking for work. Eddie struggles to find a job but when a routine package delivery lands him in a speakeasy, Eddie begins a lucrative life of crime. Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties is an epic film which spans nearly a decade of the lives of Eddie, George, and Lloyd as they work together as bootleggers. This is a film that not only wishes to tell a story but wishes to be a testament of the times, and it succeeds at creating a rather important documentation of post WWI America. When so many of our soldiers returned home from the war they quickly learned that the world keeps on turning, forcing many to struggle to find work with many seeking money wherever they could find it. The structure of The Roaring Twenties is two-fold, using narration to create this documentary-type atmosphere which perfectly melds with the narrative of Eddie's tragic story. Eddie is without question the main protagonist and we see him transform right in front of our eyes, going from mild mannered and good intentioned to a demanding man whose power seemingly has corrupted him. That being said, even when Eddie is at his worst, he shows glimpses of sympathy and compassion. This is why George is a very important character in The Roaring Twenties, a man whose mean-spirit and selfish mindset from the very beginning create a nice contrast with Eddie. This contrast is what ultimately helps the viewer feel sympathetic for Eddie. Raoul Walsh does a great job with The Roaring Twenties, portraying the violence in a very raw and explicit manner, another element which makes the film feel more like a documentary than a fictional narrative. The montages are the highlight, with Walsh even mixing in surrealism to show how the stock market crash of 1929 affected everyone. The Roaring Twenties is an epic story of friendship and changing times that succeeds in both its narrative aspirations as well as being a well-crafted documentation of the time period.
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