Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo
Director: Nicholas Ray
Running Time: 111 mins
Rebel Without A Cause is an American film about a troubled teenager who moves to a new town, where he quickly finds himself making enemies with the wrong crowd.
This is a very interesting film. Above all because it gives you a different insight into the rock and roll generation than most movies of the 1950s, but also because it’s a well-written, well-acted and very personal story. It’s definitely not the greatest cinematic work of the era, and doesn’t always pack the punch it may aim to, but it’s still a very engrossing and very interesting watch throughout.
Many films in the 1950s looked at the disruption that the up and coming generation cause now that they had become teenagers, but too many looked at it from a top-down approach, writing off teenagers of the time as simply mischievous and deliberately rowdy.
The great thing about Rebel Without A Cause, however, is that we get to see the same society depicted on a far more level playing field. What that means is that we get a far deeper insight into the lives and emotions of the teens of the time, as well as a very strong assessment of the generation gap, where the film points out the flaws in both the teen and adult generations.
The centre of all that can be seen in the relationship between our main character, played by James Dean, and that of his parents. Although not the main focus of the film (that’s the conflict between Dean and the other teenagers), it was the part that really grabbed me, as you get to see the huge rift between the two generations, but from a perspective that doesn’t write off the teenager immediately, and rather gives him a chance to explain and delve into the reasons why he’s becoming involved in something a little more dangerous.
That all comes to a head in one very small but powerful sequence in the family’s house. Again, it’s not the film’s main story, but it’s a smaller part of the movie that had a big impact for me, something that I was thrilled to see.
When it comes to the performances, they’re all very strong. James Dean is excellent in the lead role, playing a very likable young man throughout whilst also managing to get across his character’s inner turmoil, something that makes it even easier to sympathise with him. Alongside Dean are the likes of Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, both of whom are good and bring more to the film, although they don’t always have the same dramatic depth in their performances as Dean.
On the whole, I was riveted by Rebel Without A Cause. Although not everything about it is the intensely engrossing social commentary that it could be, it features some absolutely fascinating ideas, made even better by some very strong performances throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.