Saturday, January 22, 2005


Directed by James Cameron
1997, rated PG-13
1 star

Most people have seen the movie Titanic; after all, it did win 14 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. Pretty surprising, considering the film is probably the biggest block of cheese ever created. Why it isn’t in the Guinness Book of World Records under this category is one of the world’s great mysteries. Over three long hours, shoddy acting and sappy dialogue, coupled with a syrupy, over-dramatic, repetitive soundtrack form the whirlpool of an empty-headed love story; appealing only if you happen to be a 12 year old girl, or fan of bad supermarket harlequin romance novels.

As in most films, the opening of Titanic sets the stage for the movie to come. Disjointed images flash onto the screen, seemingly without purpose. The rest of the film is much like this opening sequence, with romantic sunset shots on the ocean spliced in at random moments among the random pictures of the boat on the water. We all know about Titanic from our school lessons. Yes, the boat is big, yes, it’s on the ocean, yes, the first couple shots were neat and gave the scope and dimensions of the grandiose and size of the ship, but as there are about 50 million of these same shots over and over at random times throughout the film, it gets just a little boring. The cinematography is so disjointed and messy it can barely hold itself together, let alone help develop the atrocious romantic plot, as it is supposed to. The film finishes with the same sort of incoherent image bungling that occurred at the beginning, and actually, all through the film. Well, at least it was consistent. From start to finish, this film is a cinematographic mess.

Yet, while the cinematography was bad, the acting was even worse. This film has too many characters, if “characters” is what you can call them. Numerous, under-developed, one-dimensional, and obnoxious, each is worse than the last. Leonardo DiCaprio is just too much of a pretty boy to play the rough and tumble Jack, and as a result his character is awkward and wooden, not smooth and street-smart as he is supposed to be. This guy is supposed to live by the seat of his pants—he won his ticket onto Titanic in a card game moments before the ship departs—but DiCaprio’s pouting, pensive acting makes Jack too pretty; he fits into the upper class so nicely, it’s almost impossible to believe he’s a street rat. Kate Winslet plays an unbelievably sappy Rose, a spoiled rich girl who wants out of her restrained upper-class life, and therefore falls hopelessly, and unconvincingly, in love with Jack. Had the script not been so horrible, Winslet might have done a good job, but in this case the viewer will find her character completely unrealistic and almost plastic. And how can you not be plastic with lines like “I saw the iceberg, and I see it in your eyes.” The same dialogue problem haunts the character of old Rose, played by Gloria Stuart, who has classically disgusting lines such as “a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,” and many will cringe at her book-like narrative while she tells the story of her affair, and makes random sounds which resemble those of a trodden on mouse more than anything else. Kathy Bates plays a sufficiently loud and annoying Molly Brown, a “new money” aristocrat whom the audience is supposed to identify with, but instead just wishes she’d shut up. Billy Zane is a cool smooth fiancé Cal, but his character is so one-dimensional, it’s hard to appreciate his ability as an actor. Finally, Bill Paxton is obnoxious as the deep-sea explorer/ grave robber who opens this whole can of worms. Paxton’s performance is so irksome and false, the audience will cringe whenever his voice is heard, either in this movie or anywhere else.

The bad acting may have been due in part to the absolutely horrible script. The dialogue is stiff and unrealistic. Lines are repeated in an attempt at humor, which fails miserably. When old Rose begins the narrative of her love story, it sounds more as if she were reading cue cards with excerpts from a poorly written, and rather boring, romance novel, and as her narrative continues as a voice-over, the audience is left annoyed, rather than enlightened. This voice-over technique does not even carry through the entire movie; rather, director James Cameron seems to completely forget about it at times, and then suddenly remember it with a guilty jump back to the present. The dialogue just tries too hard to be dramatic, and comes off as cheesy and stupid. The soundtrack doesn’t help at all either. Hearing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” about 50 times, in various themes, is roughly equivalent to the infamous Chinese water torture. Spliced in with that repulsive song is a large, loud, overly-dramatic orchestral score, which contributes to the movie’s sappy drama. The attempt at drama is so badly over-done, one may be prone to Mystery Science Theater-like comments throughout the three hours of this unbearably long movie. The plot is so thick with romantic muck, and so formulaic in its baseness, it leaves no room for suspense. Everyone already knows the end—hey, guess what, the boat sinks—and almost everyone will be able to guess the outcome of the romantic plot. Nothing is left for the audience to speculate, and suspense is completely killed by the abysmal dialogue, and heavy-handed, cluttered cinematography. Over all, this movie is more like deep-fat fried Twinkies, or caramel coated cotton candy— sickeningly sweet and without substance. So unless the 12 year old girl in you is just screaming to get out, avoid this movie at all costs. Goodbye Jack! Goodbye!


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