Director: Nicholas Ray
Starring: James Dean (Jim Stark), Natalie Wood (Judy), Sal Mineo (John 'Plato' Crawford), Jim Backus (Frank Stark)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rebel Without a Cause, a 1955 drama film revolves around a teenager named Jim Stark, who had a troubled past due to emotional confusion. This has led his family to have moved to a new town in Los Angeles, California. Here he hopes to find the love he doesn't receive from his middle-class family. Although he acquires love through his relation with Judy, and a form of it in both Plato's adulation and Ray's real concern for him, Jim feels he must prove his masculinity in switchblade knife fights and "chickie" games.
Jim Stark has an inner conflict, battling anger and betrayal throughout the film because of his father's milquetoast attitude and failure to stand up to his mother Carol. This is key in the film as it explains his reasoning for why he feels he should participate in meaningless acts such as switchblade knife fights and "chickie" games to prove he’s not chicken. This brings comparison to Martin Seamus McFly (Michael J. Fox) and James Dean (Jim Stark). They both share exaggeration in their acting style, participate in courageous activities, and have a common trigger word, chicken.
The film did a very good job at attacking the social norms in a lowkey manner such as male and female roles during the 50’s and homosexuality. In one of the scenes, you will see Jim Stark’s father wearing a kitchen apron cleaning and performing household chores. This is an obvious gender switch as it was seen as women been in the household, doing chores and ensuring everything was completed for their tired man when he arrived home. Emotions, in the film the mother is viewed as more aggressive while the father is emotional and soft. This is why Jim Stark battles with his inner conflict because he lacks a sense of masculinity and is angry at the fact that his father will not stand up against his mother in times of need.
Plato in the film is portrayed as a lonely child whose father abandoned him and mother is never home. So when he encounters Jim he views him as a “father figure,” however homosexuality is subliminal in the film. Plato is homosexual, it’s framed somewhat as a search for a replacement father figure, which was one psychological understanding of homosexuality at the time.
Honestly, the film has a lot of great content and subliminal messages that cannot be uncovered through one seeing. I would put this movie as a top three for me through all the films we’ve watched throughout the year. Although many may have seen a decent film I feel that it does take an analytical mind to truly enjoy the film and the choices the director has chosen to make.