Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second Age Reviews Backlog 9: Rebel Without A Cause

That's right fans...fan...people who read my stuff. It's a bonus review. Why wasn't it mentioned in last weeks review? Because it wasn't showing at my normal indie theater, but one closer to my house that had previously shown Casablanca and Citizen Kane. So I got to go see Rebel Without A Cause and you get to read my review of it.

Anywho, the movie review vocabulary word of today is Year Zero. This is, at least in concept, a film or idea that has been redone, remade, reimagined and reverse engineered so many times that it's difficult to review properly. John Carpenter's Halloween is a good example of that.Rebel Without A Cause began the concept of gorgeous, angry, possibly violent but wounded and sensitive teenager concept that has been done more times than I care to count; Some of it's good, Danny from Grease coming instantly to mind, some of it's bad, Edward from Twilightbeing a perfect example of the bad, but most of it's repetitive, which is why Year Zero films are often difficult to review. Good thing this ones fantastic.

The plot is chiefly concerned with Jim, the Rebel of the title, an angry young man who has recently moved to a new town on the California coast and gets himself embroiled with the local teens and their inner politics. More than that I don't want to say because, despite feeling like you've seen this movie a dozen times, some of the character arcs will surprise you.
On the writing and story side, most of it's very well done. The characters are well rounded and interesting, the dialogue is MOSTLY well written (more on this later). Most notable is the humanity, as characters have real human emotions and problems and there's at least one amazing moment of gut wrenching horror and shock, comparable with that one scene in Crash (2004 one, you know the scene I mean). Just to get the rest of the technical stuff out of the way, the cinematography is rather excellent as well, with at least (at the time) revolutionary shot.

On the acting side, James Dean is, of course, the standout, one of a trio of films he acted amazingly before his untimely death, but the other actors do rather well too. Sal Mineo does a solid job as John (Plato as he is called in the movie), the disturbed and lonely friend of Jim and Natalie Wood does a good job as Judy (what is with all the J's?), a girlfriend to the local bully. Also, keep an eye out for a very young Dennis Hopper who would go on to, over a decade later, direct and appear in the unspeakably brilliant Easy Rider in a similar vein.

The film is not without it's flaws, most of them caused by it's age. The primary one, from my perspective, is some extremely dodgy editing throughout, but you won't notice that unless you're paying attention. One that is more notable is the film feels slightly rushed. In the first act one of the character's boyfriend is killed in an accident and not only does the girlfriend not feel sad, it's mostly forgotten by the midpoint and serves as thin character motivation for the villains. The final major problem can be plunked straight on it's age, in that the dialogue is deeply unsubtle. In an early scene Jim screams at his parents "YOU'RE TEARING ME APART!" which pretty much sets the tone for the dialogue.]

But somehow, it all stops mattering when it's so well done. The dialogue may be a bit clunky but it does the job rather exceptionally and you find yourself getting genuinely attached to characters. The primary 'point' of the film is about absent father figures. Again, don't want to spoil, especially due to a well timed character moment in the third act, but you'll see what I mean.

You know, most Year Zero films are hard to review because they've been copied so many times, but Rebel isn't. Maybe it's simply because unlike a good 90 percent of Year Zero films this is better than all it's copies. I HIGHLY recommend this one, so you go track it down and give it a watch and I'll see you next time.

Next time on Second Age Reviews (really this time): Shogun Assassin

Elesar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and you can beat me, but you'll never beat The Scorpions (kudos to everyone who gets this joke).

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