#59– Rebel Without A Cause

Wow. I’m actually a little overwhelmed at this movie. Much of that comes from my naive impression of James Dean: I never thought he could act. I’d never seen him act until “Giant” (#82), but his status as a mysterious American icon caused me to question his ability. Guess what? James Dean was actually a good actor! I loved his angst-ridden portayal of Jim Stark, but my 21st century cynicism made me question much of the film’s story.

Teaching high school gives me the unique opportunity to be around teenagers quite a bit. I tend to forget, at times, that they aren’t adults. James Dean’s character, for all his coolness and aloof persona, craves genuine love and attention from his parents. His parents seem to think they are no longer necessary as advisers; instead they treat Jim as a peer. Adolescence is definitely a time when the shackles of childhood rules and regs start to loosen, but those rules and regs shouldn’t outright disappear.

I often assume that many of my students have a “Stark family dynamic” in which the parents are merely human ATMs and that the kids are A-OK with that. While I was watching “Rebel”, I thought of my most difficult kids in my teaching career. Would they have improved with a little more love at home? The teensy bit of idealism left in my mind says yes. But the cynic in me says that things have simply changed too much. Parents want friends, not kids. There’s always exceptions to that rule…but perhaps my thinking is a bit backward and parents who love and discipline their teenagers are the rule. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was true?

Either way, this is a great film. Unique angle shots break up what could be rather monotonous filming, and I just LOVED James Dean. Oh! And “The Millionaire” from Gilligan’s Island plays Mr. Stark. How cool is that?

Go Andy Roddick! And how fun to have an all-American women’s Wimbledon final!

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