Movie Notes: Titanic
= 5 stars
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane
Directed by James Cameron
Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) isn’t enjoying her ride on the Titanic until she meets Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a poor artist who won his ticket in a poker game.
- Special effects used in the best way, for spectecale when called for, but also in seamless ways that don’t detract from what’s onscreen. Digital people, oceans, and backgrounds are used constantly but it doesn’t seem to overshadow the characters. The film looks like it belongs on the big screen if only to contain the huge ship and thousands of ant-like people crawling over it. And the attention to detail is insane: reproductions of the original ship in miniature and on sets, all combining to the feeling that you’re really there, enjoying the opulence.
- DiCaprio wasn’t a big star at this time but his passionate performance wins over, and in retrospect, after everything from Howard Hughes to Inception, this still seems like his best role.
- The love story between Jack and Rose is convincing; they spend a lot of time joking around together and falling in love on the level of two people getting to know each other. You really believe it by the end.
- Manages the careful balancing act between the characters and the epic scope of the looming disaster. We care about their fates, and knowing some of the folks in peril humanizes the entire thing.
- Almost calculatingly mainstream; contains elements that would appeal to just about every demographic – young girls can drool over DiCaprio, guys can get into the sinking ship or the class warfare, old folks can relate to “old Rose,” etc.
- The differences between the classes, and the inhumanity of the upper class passengers during the sinking seem more pointed in the post 9/11 and Great Recession age. You could see the huge sinking ship as a metaphor for America.
- Often mawkish and manipulative, you know exactly when and where Cameron is trying to guide you and your emotions. And that whole “king of the world” stuff is pretty darned cheesy.
- The initial pacing of the love story often drags, sometimes feeling like a Merchant Ivory production with sappier lines. The stuff on the boat in the present day with a much older Rose wasn’t my cup of tea, either.
- Don’t like the theme song.
I wasn’t super impressed by Titanic when it first came out, but enjoyed it much more over a decade later. Yes, the cheesy stuff still spurs trips to the bathroom, but it’s wholly overshadowed by epic qualities. And its best attribute is balance: between the computer effects and the story, the intimacy of the love story and the disaster spectacle, and all the different elements that appeal to different demographics. The definition of blockbuster with something for everyone.