This quintessential James Dean film is a prototype to for teen angst cinema. Our protagonist has a history of making trouble, and the movie opens with young Jim picked up by the police for public drunkenness. We learn early that much of his misplaced anger stems from an emotionally emasculated father, an introduction to the overarching theme of broken fatherhood throughout the picture. This lack of adequate fathering may in fact be Rebel‘s true antagonist as we see every tense situation resulting from the side effects of absent or poor male parenting. Even the climactic struggle reveals the desire of a desperate teenager to regain the father figure he lost as a child.
That’s a pretty easy segue to my feeling that the script is spectacular, and with the exception of a few events, is timeless. The dialog feels natural, the pacing is even, and the plot is simple yet complete. Excellent directing augments the story with camera shots to heighten the drama and emphasize the emotional gravity of each situation. And let me just say that, yes, James Dean passed too soon from this world. His acting alone makes this film worth viewing, but he’s joined by two strong supporting actors in Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo.
I’m telling you right now that you should see this movie. Make sure it’s widescreen, and make sure you’re not distracted so you can soak in every frame on the screen. I’m buying this when I get the chance, and I’ll be proud to add it to my collection.
FIVE out of FIVE stars from me.