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>
I was quite impressed with _Rebel Without a Cause_. I expected it to be quite standard, having only gathered its reputation because of the tragedy surrounding James Deans' death. Fortunately, it stood up on its own quite well. Its superficial situations are somewhat dated, which was inevitable, but its themes remain potent after many decades.
The major theme is the burgeoning relationship between adults and their teenage children. All three of the main characters are at different stages in this process. Jim (James Dean) is surprisingly at the earliest stage of this. His mother is pretty distanced and unresponsive already, but he still seems to communicate well with his father (Jim Backus, who is amazing. His character's relationship with his wife also provides an interesting view into 1950s gender politics; in one scene, Backus is wearing a cooking apron, which is very obviously meant for a woman). Judy (Natalie Wood, whom I didn't even recognize here) is almost completely rejected by her father, who feels that her affection is out of place in her teenage years. Worst of all is Plato, both of whose parents have left him alone in the world. He tries desperately to make Jim and Judy his parents (although from this vantage point in time, Plato seems resoundingly sexually attracted to Jim, and he sees Judy as a threat to their relationship. Although the writer/director has denied that forever, no human being can watch it nowadays without that thought constantly crossing their mind).
The reason that I say this film is flawed lies in the actions of Plato near the end of the film. I felt his escalating insanity was kind of a cop-out. Instead of actually delving into Plato's true character and motives by having intelligent and realistic dialogue and actions, he is just made to go batty, wherein he spouts off his thoughts as if he were some eight year old or man-child. Plato may have been sycophantic throughout the film, but he was anything but a moron. His actions provide an easy way for the director/writer to answer all questions about his character, and then to facilitate an ending which is tragic, but more than a little contrived.
Despite what I feel is a cop-out ending, _Rebel Without a Cause remains a thoroughly powerful film. I liked it, and I'll never forget it. 9/10
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