Jim Stark is the new kid in town. He has been in trouble elsewhere; that's why his family has had to move before. Here he hopes to find the love he doesn't get from his middle-class family. Though he finds some of this in his relation with Judy, and a form of it in both Plato's adulation and Ray's real concern for him, Jim must still prove himself to his peers in switchblade knife fights and "chickie" games in which cars race toward a seaside cliff. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The teenage years are a confusing time for anyone. You start to act different, think different, and realize that you are growing up and there is nothing you can do about it. For Jim Stark this is more than he can handle.
Nicholas Ray's classic Rebel Without a Cause is a look into the life of Jim Stark (James Dean) and his attempt to try and figure out what he wants to do with his life. Should he try to become an adult or should he enjoy what little time he has left and cut loose?
The movie opens with Jim after he has had a few too many drinks. After being taken to the police station his parents are brought in to help find out what he did and why he did it. His parents (Jim Backus and Ann Doran) are torn over what to do with him. The father is understanding but the mother wants him to learn his lesson and make sure it does not happen again. Their fighting is "tearing him apart!".
Also at the station is Judy (Natalie Wood) and John "Plato" Crawford (Sal Mineo). Jim offers his coat to Plato but he refuses. It was just a kind gesture, but given Plato's emotional state, it is a justified response.
The next day is Jim's first day at his new school. He leaves the house in a good mood, telling his parents how this might be it for him. After meeting Judy, who appears to be unfazed by the incident she had in the police station, Jim is off to school where he learns of a field trip for that afternoon to the planetarium.
It is hear where he encounters Buzz, the leader of the "cool" crowd. After slashing Jim's tires, it's "examination time", or a little knife fight. No jabbing, just sticking. Jim almost loses it but keeps his cool. Buzz challenges Jim to a "chicee race" at the bluffs. Jim accepts having no idea what that is.
The events that follow are like a wild goose chase for Jim and his new friends. They go everywhere from the bluffs, to an abandoned mansion, and the planetarium. It's a wonderfully written script using great dialogue between Jim and his parents. The camera work is also a magnificent display, using great angles and unique shots. Ray had the perfect vision of what he wanted his film to look like.
Color is often used to showcase significance or symbolize a certain aspect of the film. Jim's red jacket, Judy's red coat in the beginning, and Buzz and all his cronies where black leather coats.
Dean's performance is remarkable. It is a shame he was only featured in 3 films, none the less, he is one of America's icons. He symbolizes what every guy wants to be. He is not the only good performer. Backus gives a tremendous performance as the father, the understanding, somewhat lenient parent of Jim Stark. Wood and Mineo both received Oscar nominations and both were well deserved.
As mentioned earlier, these are the most confusing years for a teenager. One scene that says it perfectly is after the knife incident when Jim comes home. He walks up the stairs to find what appears to be his mother in an apron cleaning up. It turns out to be his father cleaning up the food he spilled for his wife who is a little under the weather. They both laugh and Jim tells him to leave the food so she can see it. The father doesn't understand and Jim just keeps telling him to. He gets flustered and walks away. He stutters and just can't give a straight answer to his father. This is a perfect comparison to much of Jim's life. He does something but cannot explain it.
Rebel Without a Cause is a classic from the 1950's. A movie that to this day is a perfect example of how each new generation is as rebellious as the one before it.
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