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'm getting really sick of people on here saying "this film is not relevant today, because kids don't face the same problems, blah blah..." when these are ADULTS saying this, who wouldn't know the first thing about the problems kids face today because they aren't one. Well I'm 16 and I can say that this film is every bit as involving and affecting as it was the day it came out. I mean, name one thing in Rebel that isn't a part of teen life now. Drag racing: that's the only thing.
But anyway, the movie. I'm a hard-core film buff and have seem many many many many movies in my 16 years. Only two of them have accurately depicted teen life: Rebel Without a Cause and a beautiful Japanese anime film called Whisper of the Heart. Rebel on a whole is a bit exaggerated, but it's only fitting - a teen exaggerates everything that happens to them. In fact, some of the images and themes - kids and adults seem to be speaking different languages, a group of outcasts living in a secluded house - would be right at home in a Bunuel film. That house of outcasts in particular is very touching...I think all teens would want to live away from the real world once in a awhile.
The three principal characters are all like people I know. Sal Mineo as the troubled kid who wants nothing more than a friend. Natalie Wood as the girl who just goes along with what other people do because she wants to fit in. And of course, the ultra-cool James Dean as the kid who may have a rough-and-tumble exterior, but who is really a big softie at heart. Dean was a bit of a revelation to me. I'd never seen one of his movies before, so I assumed that, like Marilyn Monroe, it was the image that people grieved over and not the talent. Boy was I wrong. The guy could act. When he howls "You're tearing me apart!" at the beginning, you know what you're in store for.
The depiction of the parents also must have been a revelation for 1955 audiences. Juvenile delinquents had been (and are continuing to be) depicted as either overall bad seeds or having abusive parents. This film was the first to acknowledge that something as simple as a lack of communication and an unwillingness to pay attention to your child can do just as much damage.
Nicholas Ray's direction was also excellent. Besides coming up with the idea for Jim's red jacket to "make him stick out more" you have Plato's mismatched socks, and I was also surprised by the frequently-titled camera. I didn't know they did that back then! It certainly added more to the disjointed feeling and wasn't just there for style purposes like todays movies.
The only point at which the film falters is the pat resolution between Jim and his parents at the end. But the ending is great otherwise, with a wonderfully framed shot of the observatory, proving Jim's theory that the world will end at dawn.
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