This movie attacks previous-held beliefs about ‘juvenile delinquents’, the generation conflict and the emerging ‘Teen’. The tragic James Dean was amazing in his role as Jim Stark. He shone in all his scenes, and the vibrancy of every single scene had me hooked. Sure, its not perfect. Some of the ‘villain’ characters come off as farcical. All the same, its a remarkable film. It casts aside the dainty, wholesome representation of the 1950s era and shows the breakdown of society. The family dynamics of the two main characters is interesting to see and played out in the volatile way as shown in the film.
This film has so much to say. I think a second viewing is in order again at some point. It has its highs and lows (as every film does) but I was enthralled all the way through. It even had some sad moments, which I didn’t really expect to be honest. Natalie Wood was striking in her role as Judy, James Dean’s love interest. Sal Mineo was bitterly tragic in his role of the misguided Plato, who turns to Jim and Judy for friendship due to his difficult home life.
A great deal of Dean’s posthumous reputation stems from this movie. One can only wonder how far he would have gone in his career if he hadn’t died so young. Perhaps he would have built a respectable career in film and retained his heartthrob status? I really hope so, but in the circumstances it is really impossible to know.
All the same, its a super film and a must-see for film fans and fans of James Dean.
MY RATING: **** / *****