We all know the film, we all know the plot and most of all, we all know the song. As of a few days ago, I have finally seen the film all the way through. Now before the eye rolling and gasping can begin, let me assure you that I had seen most of the film but I had watched it piece mail. After seeing it all the way through I have to admit, I actually really enjoyed Titanic.
Quick recap of Titanic for those of you who live under a rock. Told in a flashback format, the film begins with an excavation team in present day (when the film was made of course) searching for the sunken wreck of the Titanic. Led by Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) it becomes clear that they are looking for The Heart of the Ocean, a giant diamond rumored to have sunk with the ship. The team recovers a picture showing a woman wearing the diamond and find to their advantage that the woman in the picture is still alive. She gets in contact with them and tells the story of her time on the Titanic. The bulk of the film tells the story of Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). From different worlds, Rose arrives on the Titanic a member of a wealthy family with her extremely wealthy boyfriend Caledon “Cal” Nathan Hockley (Billy Zane) while Jack wins his ticket with his friend Fabrizio De Rossi (Danny Nucci) in a poker game. Rose lives in first class while Jack resides in third. The two probably would have never met if Jack hadn’t been at the right place at the right time. On the verge of suicide when realizing how unhappy she is in life, Jack manages to pull Rose back on board the ship before she jumps and romance is born.
The romance between Jack and Rose is a classic, overplayed romance but it worked perfectly in this film. Two people from different worlds fall in love and learn to love each other even more as they try to traverse they respective worlds together. Jack is invited into Rose’s world as a result of saving her life in the form of a dinner with the ship’s High Class patrons. Though Cal and Rose’s mother (Frances Fisher) do all they can to embarrass Jack, he manages to survive the dinner with grace, charm and dignity. After his foray into the upper class, Jack brings Rose to the underbelly of the ship to a third class party. Loud, crazy and unsophisticated, the exact opposite of what Rose is used to, she fits in perfectly, dancing and drinking with the rest. While this romance, where two people from different social circles preserve their love against all odds, is extremely overplayed, it worked out perfectly in this film. Not only did it serve to frame character development, it really showed the variety of life, status and wealth that existed on the giant cruise ship. All walks of life had gathered and were at times force to commingle on the Titanic.
I enjoyed watching this film but I also had a number of fundamental flaws with it, most of which can be traced back to director James Cameron trying to do too much. Prior to working on Titanic, Cameron had made a number of brilliant action films including Terminator and Alien, aptly proving himself as a skilled director. With Titanic, Cameron seemed to be much more scatterbrained. His work with the camera was impeccable, filling the film with perfectly orchestrated shots and scenes. What I didn’t like about the direction of the movie was that Cameron wasn’t able to decide if he wanted to make a drama or an action film. Instead he made a drama film, then he made an action film, then he smashed them together, making one confused film that ran too long. There was also a lack of character development throughout the film. Jack and Rose had great character development but there were a number of other characters that got lost in the shuffle of the film. There were a number of characters in both the upper and lower class that served as anchors, not really doing anything but giving us a face to focus on when the scene involved those classes which to me seems like a waste of time. In my opinion many characters fell into the background of the grand sets and the special effects that made up the last hour of the film. The only side character that I found to be memorable at all was Margaret Brown (Kathy Bates) and only then because Kathy Bates doesn’t have the ability to be on screen without making an impression.
In 1997, Titanic went head to head with L.A. Confidential, As Good As it Gets, Good Will Hunting and the Full Monty and came out victorious with an Oscar Best Picture win and didn’t stop there. Taking a staggering eleven Oscar wins, including a win for James Cameron in Best Directing, the film still holds the record for most Oscar wins along with Ben-Hur and the Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King. While I didn’t want to like the movie that much, I have to admit that it is a well done film. I give Titanic a 7.5 out of 10. It may be a little bit long but it is worth seeing.