16 November 2002 | sddavis63
A Superb Epic
I avoided watching this film for the longest time. Long before it was even released I had dismissed it as an over-hyped, over-blown, overly romanticized piece of Hollywood schmaltz, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I never watched it in the theatre. I shook my head in disbelief at the 11 Academy Awards - even though I had never seen it. Then I was asked to be a judge at a high school public speaking contest. One of the girls spoke about this movie. "It was so great," she said. "You really felt like you were on the ship." "Nonsense," I thought. I shared my feelings with my fellow judges. One looked at me and said, "you might be right, but if she liked the movie that much maybe she'll want to learn more about the real Titanic. The movie must have done something right to get her so interested." "Well, maybe," thought I. Then it finally appeared on Pay TV. "OK," I thought, "I'll give it a look see." I didn't want to like it - and I didn't. I loved it! What a great movie.
Where to start? First - the directing. My high school public speaking contestant was right. James Cameron does a superb job of creating an almost "you are there" type of atmosphere. The gaiety of life aboard the most elegant ship in the world. The nonchalance as news of the iceberg first spreads; then the rising sense of panic. You don't just watch it; you really do feel it. Then - the performances. The lead performances from Kate Winslet (as Rose) and Leonardo DiCaprio (as Jack) are excellent - Winslet's being the superior, I thought, but both were good. They had their rich girl/poor boy characters down to a perfect "t" I thought. In my opinion, though, stealing the show was Frances Fisher as Rose's mother. She was perfect as the snobby aristocrat, and you could feel the fear and loathing she felt every time she looked at Jack. Then - the details. I'm no expert on the sinking of the Titanic, but I have a reasonable general knowledge, and this film does a super job of recreating the historical details accurately and then weaving them seamlessly around the fictional romance. Very impressive, indeed. Then - the song. Who can watch this movie and not be taken with Celine Dion's performance of "My Heart Goes On."
Problems. Well, the romance was perhaps too contrived, in the sense that I just don't accept that Jack could have moved so effortlessly from steerage to first class. (I know he was invited the first time; but he seems to keep getting into first class without being stopped until he's been there for a while.) The realities of the separation of the social classes were much more realistically portrayed, I thought, when the steerage passengers were going to be left locked down there after the ship hit the iceberg while the first class folks got to enjoy half empty lifeboats.
A minor quibble, though. This is truly an excellent movie. My only regret is not seeing it in the theatre, where I think it would have been so much more impressive.