Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Titanic (1997)

Rose: “You’re crazy!”
Jack: “Well, that’s what everybody says. But with all due respect, miss, I’m not the one hanging off the back of a ship here.”

Title: Titanic
Genre: Historical Romance
Year: 1997
Rated: PG-13

Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt-Bukater
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson
Billy Zane as Caledon Hockley
Gloria Stuart as Rose Calvert

Plot: An engaged rich girl and a poor artist meet and fall in love on board the ill-fated unsinkable ship.

Tagline: A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.

First Viewing: Summer of 1998, rented on VHS.
Added to The List: Always been there.

It may be the highest grossing film of all time. It may have won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture. It may have properly launched two of our greatest working actors. But the truth is, Titanic isn’t that great. Now, don’t get me wrong. I fucking love this movie, but 12 years later, it’s kind of hard to believe that this movie was once the living end.

I was nine years old when Titanic was released in theaters. All of my friends had seen it and since I was a slave to their social whims, I wanted to see it too, despite having no prior knowledge of the unsinkable ship. However, my mother refused to take me simply because she hated long movies. So it wasn’t until later in the summer of 1998 when I finally saw it when my mom caved and rented it on video.

Neither of us liked it.

This is a reoccurring theme on my list. Movies I don’t like somehow end up there with repeated viewings. Magically, Titanic was shown on HBO a few times and then on the major networks. Slowly…ever so slowly, I fell in love with it and soon I was renting it when renting videos was obsolete. By high school, Titanic had made my list.

All of the movies on my list are there because they resurrect childhood memories or strike an emotional chord. Titanic does neither. Therefore, I’ve decided to use this blog to determine why exactly this romantic epic not only makes my list, but ranks in the top five.

Until The Notebook (gag!) came along, I was certain Titanic would be hailed as the romance of my generation. After all, it contains all the classic necessities:

1. Rich girl (meaning beautiful costumes)

2. Poor boy (meaning full of integrity)

3. Evil fiancée

4. Overbearing mother

5. Historical event full of danger and adventure

The story starts out simple enough. Rose DeWitt-Bukater is a rich debutante on her way to America with her overbearing mother and asshole fiancée. Depressed with her meaningless life, Rose contemplates jumping off the back of the Titanic. Luckily, starving artist Jack Dawson happens upon her and convinces her not to do it.

After saving Rose, her fiancée Cal invites him to dinner in the first class dining room. Jack actually makes an impression on the other rich folks. Afterwards, Jack and Rose attend a third class party. Cal’s valet discovers them and reports back to his master. Both Cal and Rose’s mother Ruth forbid her from seeing Jack ever again.

(P.S. I love this scene!!!)

Jack seeks Rose out of concern, but she rebuffs him. Finally, Rose refuses to accept her life of unhappiness and finds Jack. Then he holds her on the beau of the ship.

Then he draws her in the nake.

Then they have sex in the backseat of a car.

And all though it doesn’t make “any sense,” Rose has every intention of leaving with Jack as soon as they arrive in America. To hell with Cal! To hell with her mother’s debt! And to hell with society! It seems all is well for our two lovers, but alas…tragedy strikes when the Titanic hits an iceberg and all hell breaks lose.

Titanic is a classic external conflict romance. Everything keeping Jack and Rose from achieving their happy ending is caused by outward sources and neither character’s personal weaknesses. Through out the movie, Rose overcomes her slavery to societal rules and defies her mother by breaking her engagement with Cal. Jack never has an emotional conflict. He’s in love with Rose at first sight. Of course, internal conflicts could arise if they had both survived and if they remained together. After all, Rose is used to the sweet life and Jack may feel guilt about not being able to provide for her…

But I digress. Personally, I feel a more tragic romantic scenario is when two people can be together, but refuse to for reasons like “what’s better for the other person” (like at the end of Spider-Man and Casablanca) or a prior relationship/marriage to another person (like in The Bridges of Madison County…and Casablanca) or a needless infatuation with another person (like in Wuthering Heights and Gone With the Wind).

I digress more…Titanic is a far from perfect movie, even when you ignore the historical inaccuracy and average, simplistic screenplay and concentrate solely on the love story. First of all, you have to remember that the entire film takes place over four and a half days:

Day 1: Everyone boards the ship. (With a four and a half day time frame, you think they’d at least meet on the first day!)
Day 2: Jack sees Rose. Jack convinces Rose not to commit suicide.
Day 3: Jack and Rose take a walk around the ship. Jack comes to dinner. Jack and Rose go to the third class party.
Day 4: Rose rejects Jack. Jack draws Rose wearing only the Heart of the Ocean. Jack and Rose have sex. The Titanic hits the iceberg.
Day 5: The ship sinks. Jack freezes to death. Rose is rescued.

I’ve never been a fan of love at first sight. I don’t believe it truly exists. Generally, I enjoy love stories where the hero and heroine have a solid amount of time to talk and get to know one another. Perhaps that’s why I love Beauty and the Beast so much (but even that movie can be taken as taking place over the same amount of time as Titanic…but that’s debatable).

What’s with me and my digressions in this blog? Let’s just get to the most controversial aspect. The “never let go part.”

So Jack and Rose were actually on the ship as it sank and are separated in the confusion. He finds her and swims her to a piece of floating wood paneling. They both try to get on, but it can only support the weight of one. And since this film takes place in a time when chivalry was not yet dead, Jack lets Rose stay on the wood. Personally, if I had written/directed this film, I would have Rose insist that Jack get on the panel, or have her offer a trade, “You ten minutes, me ten minutes” for example. Of course, chivalrous Jack would refuse, but that one line, that one offer would make the movie all the better.

As they’re freezing in the water and awaiting the arrival of the lifeboats, Rose starts saying her goodbyes. Jack rebuts and makes her promise to survive and go on to lead a full life. Rose agrees. So, after what seems like forever, the boats finally arrive. Rose tries to wake Jack but realizes he’s dead. I love the moment when she settles back down on the panel like she has no plan to get up. She’s lost the love of her life. But then she frantically remembers the promise she made. And vows to “never let go” of that promise. Not him. Not his frozen, lifeless corpse. The promise. I hate when people who saw this movie once, six years ago, make fun of this scene. I defend it. Ruthlessly.

The one final thing I’d like to cover in my epically long winded Titanic blog is the subject of Rose’s virginity. In the scene where Cal first presents Rose with the Heart of the Ocean, he says “There’s nothing I would deny you, if you would not deny me.” Later on, the night after the third class party, Cal’s says “I hoped that you would come to me last night.” All of this is so highly unorthodox. It’s no longer the Victorian era, but in 1912, virginity was still a prized attribute in a bride. All though they’re engaged, I don’t think premarital sex, especially among the first class, was a common practice. Then later in the backseat of the Model T, Jack asks Rose if she’s nervous which I assume is because he assumes she’s a virgin. I hope he wasn’t disappointed. I don’t really see why Cal and Rose having a sexual relationship is necessary and I still don’t know why James Cameron put it in.

I think I’ve finally figured out why I love Titanic so much. Rose had this one four day fling with some random man she met on a ship at age seventeen. But the love touched her so deeply, that she let it affect all the aspects of her life. I mean, she took his name for Christ sakes! And at the end of the movie, we see the picture of her riding a horse in front of a roller coaster in Santa Monica. Rose never considers her love for Jack as a teenage whim. Sure, she probably loved her husband (after all she had to fulfill her promise to “make lots of babies”) but who does she meet in heaven? Who is waiting for her in heaven? (Which raises the question…is there a special section of heaven for Titanic victims?)

Okay…I’ve written four pages on this movie. But I reached my goal in discovering my reasons behind my love for Titanic. It’s not just the wonderful, hauntingly beautiful score. Or awesome costumes. Or Leo’s incredibly sexy portrayal of Jack Dawson (see my list of Top 10 Hottest Movie Characters). It’s Rose’s never ending love for a man “who exists now only in her memory.” Because of which, I have an immense amount of respect for her.

Favorite Screencap:

Fine...judge me.

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