Now — don’t get all crazy. I like this movie, I like Nick Ray, I like James Dean. But this is not as good as it gets credit for. For one, the dialogue is awful pretty much from top to bottom. Also, there are some very lame plot holes (why in the hell does Sal Mineo’s absent mother keep a loaded gun under her pillow? And why would the loving maid, so worried about the confused, violent boy allow it to stay there?) The star of this movie is James Dean fighting against the pussification of the American male, and those chamber scenes with his father are, indeed, terrific (even if the dialogue is awfully on the nose.) But for a movie with so much over the top drama and obvious confict, there is plenty of ooky subtext. Does Natalie Wood’s father ignore her because he is angry at himself for lusting after her budding 16 yr old body? The subtlety of this (and other similar) shades is one of the chief benefits of a 1955 production date. That and a bright red jacket.
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