2014 Blind Spot Series: Rebel Without A Cause


What I knew going in: This was James Dean's second to last film.

Jim Stark (James Dean) is a troubled young man that has moved around a lot in his life. Once he and his family settle in a new town, he makes friends with Plato (Sal Mineo) and becomes attracted to Judy. (Natalie Wood) Too bad her friends aren't as smitten with Jim as he is with her. An accident happens that changes this group of kids forever.

Have you ever watched a film with a certain amount of expectations, then start to wonder if maybe you're watching it the wrong way once you realize you are having the polar opposite reaction that everyone else has had? That's kind of how I felt here. How was this movie nominated for Oscars? This is a joke, right?

I'll get the good out of the way first. Wood and Mineo gave great performances. They were quite young when they filmed this, and they were solid. The story overall was solid too, despite all of the theatrics.  That's what threw me off here, everything felt overly dramatic. James Dean probably had a lot of potential to be a great actor, but I felt like he was just mugging here. There's only so many times you can do the "dramatic head tilt," the "pout," and the "eye fuck" without it becoming a farce.  And The score! The way the music picked up during the dramatic scenes was laughably bad. Then there's the car crash, which I shouldn't make fun of because this film was made in 1955, but oh my God. That was awful. I know I kind of gave Vertigo crap on not aging well, but I take all of that back after seeing this.

This is the first film on my Blind Spot list that I flat out didn't like. Sure, I was underwhelmed by Citizen Kane, but I can at least appreciate what it did at the  time of its release. This was just..kind of bad to be honest. Wood and Mineo were the only saving graces. 

Recommended: No

Grade: D+

Memorable Quote: "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" Jim Stark (James Dean)

19 comments:

  1. I did not love this, but I did like it enough for what it was, and I thought all three performances were Oscar worthy, to be honest. But I kind of love the fact that you are dumping on these classics. Someone needs to break the mold of "it's perfect" which is too often lumped on anything that got acclaim 50 years ago.

    Cinephiles aren't often as liberal with these classics as they are with newly acclaimed films. It took five minutes to tear Crash apart or decide that Argo was an undeserving winner, but classics are untouchable for so many.

    News flash, some of them suck!

    Oh, and Giant was Dean's last film. It came out in 1956, after his death.

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    1. Aww, fuck. I missed that somehow.

      That's a very good point you bring up about classics. It almost makes me feel bad for not enjoying them as much as others, but it's true. Some of them are just not good.

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  2. I started watching this once, but only got 5 minutes in before I got an urge to watch something else instead. Hilarious to read how your opinion changed while watching! I'm very curious about how I'd react to the whole thing now... hmm. Great review, Brittani!

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one that didn't like this!

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  3. Oh wow, this sounds hilarious. I may have to skip this one. I'm looking forward to your other blind spot film reviews, I haven't seen many of them myself.

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    1. I just hope I don't hate more of them like I did this one.

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  4. It's such a shame you didn't like it, I can remember really enjoying Rebel Without a Cause when I saw it - although I do take your point about Dean's over dramatic acting at times.

    I'd recommend watching East of Eden if you haven't already. I think Dean is a lot more effective in that role, and it is an excellent film (based on my favourite book although it only really covers the third part of the book!)

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    1. I have not seen that one either. I'll give it a shot, he did seem like he had potential.

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  5. Yeah, the style of classic melodramas can be overdone, but I just loved it, especially Dean's performance. :)

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  6. While I personally liked "Rebel Without a Cause" I think I can see how you felt. I personally had the same problems with Halloween, Raging Bull, and Jacques Tati's "Playtime", and Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris" (being quite possibly the only person in the universe to prefer the Clooney version); not to mention most of the James Bond franchise and the entire career of Jean-Luc Godard that leave me wondering why people like them.

    The point I'm making is that there's no shame in admitting you didn't like a movie everyone else considers a classic. In fact in some ways it's actually kind of admirable that you don't let the majority influence your opinion.

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  7. Nice review. I recently rewatched it for the podcast and the movie is kind of its own beast- like it's weirdly melodramatic at times and incredibly subversive FOR its time but the entire package almost works, especially because it is a teen movie. It's just strange.

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    1. It's strange to think of it as a teen movie, but you're right. It is one. It feel so different from what I'm used to with teen movies.

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  8. I like this movie, but I understand how you feel about the film being over dramatic. I had the same experience with A Streetcar Named Desire, which made me question if most classic films are melodramatic.

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    1. I'm starting to question that more and more. I think I should make an entire post about that.

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  9. Oh I think there's no limit to how often (*James Dean*) can do the eye fuck. But yeah, this is a very dramatic movie, I like it though.

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    1. Does he do this in his other movies too? Oh boy.

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    2. No idea, they're still blind spots for me.

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